‘Polar Bear’ is a fascinating film. Designed in a truly Disney fashion, it offers surprising doses of tenderness that accompany the word-class wildlife footage. At the very onset, the film begins with an aerial shot of a cub tagging its mother as she swims in the languid waters. This first shot and those that follow are so impressive that you are hooked on the film immediately, and the narrative does not fail you either.
The narrative is about the Polar Bear family, the bond between mothers and cubs, whose relationship lasts between two and a half and three years. During that time, the mother teaches her cubs everything they need to know to survive in the wilderness.
But at its heart, the narrative is about climate change, and you realise this when the protagonist, at the start of the film, tells us, “Home, it is the place where childhood and memory live together, but the home of my childhood is changing. The ice we depend on is melting away, my cub and I are in unchartered waters.”
This sets the ball rolling. Somewhere mid-film, we are once again reminded of global warming with, “The third summer of my childhood was the warmest.”
The voice of two-time Academy Award nominee Catherine Keener elevates the viewing experience as she brings to life the images as if revealing a real-life story of the polar bears. And her tone touches your heart when she reveals in a mournful voice, “Seals need sea ice to breed. Bears need seals to hunt. Ice Bears (Polar Bears) – how are we to survive without ice?”
Thus, we see what life is like for the polar bears in the Arctic region. The film shows us how they grow in the wilderness – swimming hundreds of miles from land, hunting for food, and surviving a solitary life, living this way as a cycle, over and over again.
The directors give us a purely realistic snapshot with sweeping footage and breathtaking imagery of some of the most exotic and hostile corners of the planet. It is a marvel to see the polar bears in live-action footage, which is carefully edited to create a seductively unhurried narrative that is just as manipulative as fiction with all the trappings of any studio picture.
Overall, while kids may find this film engaging, adults may get more restless than usual.
Film: Polar Bear
Directors: Alastair Fothergill, Jeff Wilson
Voice Cast: Catherine Keener
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar
Duration: 83 minutes
–By Troy Ribeiro