Infinitely Polar Bear

Score By: Theodore Shapiro

Songs By: Various Artists

Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                In the dramedy, Infinitely Polar Bear, Mark Ruffalo is Cameron Stewart, a man suffering from bipolar disorder in late 1970s Boston. When he is fired from his job and hospitalized after a psychotic break, Cam's wife, Maggie (Zoe Saldana), moves to a rent-controlled apartment, struggling to keep the family afloat.  But once Cam returns home, he is shocked to learn that Maggie will be going back to school, leaving Cam to take care of their children for the next eighteen months.  Can he handle the pressure?

                The Infinitely Polar Bear Soundtrack features songs by artists like George Harrison, Ike and Tina Turner, Brenton Wood, The Doc Watson Family and musical score by Theodore Shapiro.  American composer Theodore Shapiro is a graduate of both Brown University and the Julliard School and has created a number of musical scores for such notable films as Marley and Me, Tropic Thunder, The Devil Wears Prada, St. Vincent, Trumbo and Ghostbusters, to name a few.

                The songs found on the soundtrack vary from love songs of the times, like The Oogum Boogum Song by Brenton Wood, A Fool In Love by Ike and Tina Turner and Your Man by Jerry "Swamp Dogg" Williams to old classic gospel like Amen by The Brentford Choir and Down By the Riverside by Snooks EaglinInfinitely Polar Bear is a semi-autobiographical work by writer and director Maya Forbes.  It was her decision to reach out to her sister, China Forbes, front person of Pink Martini for an original song.  According to China Forbes, “I wrote ‘The Northern Line’ in a London hotel room on my son's toy ukulele.  Maya asked me to write a song about a train.  I had just taken the Northern Line of the tube to see my cousin and I have always found poetry in that title.  Mania is like a runaway train. Depression is a train off its track.  I really understood my father and his struggles and I am so happy I could contribute this joyful and wistful song to my favorite film.”

                The musical score is mainly upbeat and quirky, with a moving train feel, featuring guitars and quick beats often accented by hand claps.  According to Theodore Shapiro, “When Maya and I began working Infinitely Polar Bear she had a very clear and helpful direction: whatever form the music took, she wanted it to underline the idea of family.  Although the family that this story is about has a father who has bipolar disorder, the family is defined not by mental illness but by a messy, chaotic warmth.”  Thus, the lighthearted air of the music, even during the track, Depression, which starts off slow and somber, but definitely picks up pace and crescendo at the end.

                I actually had a great deal of fun listening to the Infinitely Polar Bear Soundtrack.  I loved reliving songs of my youth like The Oogum Boogum Song, Down By the Riverside and Amen.  It was nice to hear a song from George Harrison that I had never heard before.  I also felt that The Northern Line perfectly described the feeling of manic depression/bipolar disorder…its out of control feel, as did the musical score composed for the film by Theodore Shapiro.  I definitely recommend checking this one out.


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