Australian Council on Children and the Media

Infinitely Polar Bear

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Not recommended under 14; Parental guidance recommended 14 to 15 (Disturbing themes, some violence and coarse language)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Infinitely Polar Bear
  • a review of Infinitely Polar Bear completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 20 March 2015.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 14 Not recommended due to disturbing themes, violence and coarse language
Children 14 to 15 Parental guidance recommended due to disturbing themes
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Infinitely Polar Bear
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes and coarse language
Length 80 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

This film is set in Boston in the late 1970’s. Cameron Stuart’s (Mark Ruffalo) life is falling apart. A diagnosed manic-depressive (having bipolar disorder), Cameron gets fired from his latest job and has a breakdown. His wife Maggie (Zoe Saldana) tries to escape with their two daughters Amelie (Imogene Wolodarsky) and Faith (Ashley Aufderheide) but Cameron runs after them dressed only in his underpants and removes the carburettor from the car to prevent them leaving. Amelie and Faith watch from their window as their father is taken away by the police.

Cameron spends some time in a half-way house before he is allowed to return home. Maggie wants the family to be reunited once Cameron is better, but insists they remain separated until then. When Cameron appears to be on the mend, Maggie decides to get an MBA so that she can support the family but this requires her moving to New York. Maggie thinks it will be good for Cameron to have the responsibility of the two girls during the week and she intends to come home at the weekends.

Unfortunately Cameron has problems even looking after himself, and Amelie and Faith have to do a lot of growing up to in order look after themselves and their father.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Manic-depression/bi-polar disorder; difficult childhoods; abandonment; poverty

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Cameron shouts at Maggie and the children, trying to prevent them from leaving.
  • Cameron roughly brushes the knots out of Amelie’s hair, making her scream.
  • Faith argues with Cameron about having to do the dishes and throws a sponge at him.
  • Cameron goes over the edge when the girls won’t clear the table and he throws a heavy saucepan at the wall and storms out.
  • Cameron goes to the office of a family owned business to arrange a job for Maggie. When the relative refuses to help, Cameron starts yelling at him, destroys his office and attacks the man.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Children in this age group could be upset by seeing Maggie, Amelie and Faith cowering in the car and obviously afraid of Cameron.
  • Maggie leaves the girls with their father and they cry and are very upset about this.
  • Maggie wants to take the girls to New York with her when she can’t get a job in Boston but the girls don’t want to leave their father alone with no-one to look after him.

 

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Cameron goes out at night when he can’t handle the situation, leaving the girls on their own. They are very frightened by this and wake in the night to find themselves still alone. Cameron gets quite drunk at the pub. The following morning the girls have to get themselves ready for school and wake him up to drive them there. He swears at them telling them to have a ‘nice fucking day’.
  • Amelie and Faith plead with Cameron to not leave them on their own. They cling to his leg and tell him they need a babysitter. Cameron tells them they need to toughen up. Amelie asks him what they should do if a rapist comes to the house and he tells them not to let him in. When Cameron returns home the girls are sitting there armed with baseball bats. Cameron kicks the door in breaking the chain and the girls scream.
  • Cameron owns a machete, which a friend of one of the girls plays with.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group would also be disturbed the above mentioned scenes and by:

  • Cameron runs to the car ranting about why men have to mate and why they have balls while shaking his own (he is just in his underpants).
  • Amelie and some friends play with tarot cards. Amelie deals a girl the death card and she asks ‘Am I going to die?’

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • A woman in a lift says to Cameron that ‘most men would be quite emasculated having the wife as the main breadwinner’.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Maggie stays on the couch overnight and Cameron wants to have sex with her. He drops his head in her groin and starts to feel her breasts. They kiss and sex is implied but not shown.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Cameron is a heavy smoker and drinker, which doesn’t help his mental condition. Maggie tells the girls he has a drinking problem.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • shit
  • arsehole
  • fuck
  • bullshit
  • bastard
  • ‘shitting my pants’
  • God dammit
  • for Christ’s sake

In a nutshell

Infinitely Polar Bear is based on the true story of a childhood affected by bi-polar disorder, as seen from an adult perspective. It does have some light moments, but not enough to relieve the intensity of the story. It is likely to be quite disturbing for children and young teens and is more suited to older teens and adults. Parents are warned not to be misled by the title and picture of a happy family on the advertising posters.

The main messages from this movie are that children are capable of loving their parents despite their faults and that all human beings need to be loved and cared for.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include the importance of family and caring for others in your family.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Excessive drinking harms not only the drinker but others that care about them.
  • Maggie was a victim of racial and gender prejudice – was it fair that the Boston firm wouldn’t employ her because she was a mother? Have things changed much since the 1970’s?
  • Did Maggie have many choices in trying to improve her family’s situation?
  • Cameron was an irresponsible parent but was it his fault when he wasn’t mentally well?

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