Moving, funny and at times awkward and agonising, this introspective look at growing up with a manic depressive father mixes sweet sentimentally with bitter truth.

Mark Ruffalo is infinitely watchable in this autobiographical family drama from screenwriter and debut director Maya Forbes. Perfectly cast as Cam, Ruffalo plays a manic depressive father who tries to win back his wife Maggie (Zoe Saldana) by agreeing to look after their two daughters, Amelia and Faith (Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide), in Boston, while she goes away to study in New York.

Eclectic and preppy in dress and from a wealthy and dysfunctional family, Cam looks like he's out of a dishevelled The Royal Tenenbaums. With Cam's grandmother having a tight rein on the family's diminishing fortune, and Cam unemployable after another breakdown and stint in hospital, Maggie decides to upskill with an MBA so she can support her family.

Set in the 70s, and with a suitable retro look, there are glimpses of feminism and middle-class malaise, but mostly this is a story about mental illness. No one thinks Cam looking after his daughters is a good idea, and the initial result is one of chaos and borderline mania.

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The year-long rollercoaster that follows is filled with tragic and hilarious moments as director Forbes reflects on the challenges of living with manic depression. Ruffalo has an excellent sense of his character, and his chemistry with the daughters delivers real magic.

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As pre-teens, the girls are embarrassed and angry about their father's behaviour and being kids they're open about it. "I'd rather die than have people over to our shit hole," says Amelia when Cam tries to convince her to ask friends to visit. But for all the bitter, harsh reality there's plenty of warm quirky madness as father and daughters sort themselves out.

There are some cold, hard truths about life growing up with a manic depressive father, but the retro glow leaves the impression Forbes lobbed some hope and positives into the mix. It certainly makes for a film that's accessible, entertaining and well acted.

Cast:

Zoe Saldana, Mark Ruffalo

Director:

Maya Forbes

Running Time:

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88 mins

Rating:

M (Offensive language)

Verdict:

A quirky, moving and entertaining escapade

- TimeOut