A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
With a title as intriguingly enigmatic as “Infinitely Polar Bear,” it is hard to surmise exactly what awaits plotwise. Rest assured that this is not a documentary that exploits the cute factor of cold-climate animals. Instead, this festival-circuit sleeper is one of those to-be-treasured indie films that revels in real life with all its inherent messiness while sneakily giving your heartstrings a tug.
Not that its star, Mark Ruffalo—who continues to be cinema’s leading purveyor of rumpled bed-headed sexiness, a status he first achieved in 2000’s “You Can Count on Me”—isn’t often cuddly in the extreme. But his rather startling early entrance in this keenly observed and understated late-‘70s-era dramedy about an unconventional mixed-race family and their struggle to stick together initially suggests his unhinged Cam Stuart might be one of the most petrifying patriarchs since Jack Nicholson grabbed an ax in ”The Shining.”
This troubled soul wobbles into view atop a bicycle while wearing bright red undies, a matching headband and nothing else, even though it is winter. Spying distraught wife Maggie (the languid and lovely Zoe Saldana, who for once isn’t sporting a green or blue alien hue) and their two grade-school-age daughters, Amelia and Faith, as they are about to escape in a car, this wild-eyed mad man starts banging on the windshield and yanks out the distributor cap from under the hood. The episode ends with a deflated Cam sitting cross-legged on the ground, emotionally spent and shivering.
A prologue consisting of fuzzy Super 8 home-movie footage already has us expecting the worse as it reveals that Cam, the scion of a once-celebrated blue-blood New England clan, was diagnosed with manic-depressive disorder in 1967. And that Maggie married him anyway, given that everyone was basically a some sort of mental case back in the ‘60s.