Captain Fantastic (2016) Movie Review

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Captain Fantastic (2016)

Captain Fantastic (2016) Movie Review

A gem hidden in the forests of the Pacific Northwest

The story follows Ben (Viggo Mortensen), a father of six, living deep in the forests of the pacific northwest, far from modern life. All six children, from seventeen year old Bodevan to seven year old Nai are fluent in philosophy, history and quantum theory (!), and can hunt and fend for themselves in the wilderness. At least that is until the suicide of their mother forces the family to clash with modern society, and then Ben realizes that he has in fact not prepared his children at all for what lies outside their forest. Bodevan, for example, accepted in a swarm of the top colleges and adept enough to kill a deer single-handedly, cannot bring himself to talk to a girl without immediately proposing to her.

Captain Fantastic (2016) Movie Review

The family's ideals further come under stress when his late wife's father (Frank Langella) who hates the life Ben has created for his family comes into the picture, and forbids Ben from attending his wife's funeral, threatening him with arrest. In what could have easily turned into a one-dimensional harsh/rich character, Frank Langella also projects empathy and deep grief over his daughter's death. When Ben and his children visit his sister's much more conventional family, and her smart phone-obsessed children, Ben criticizes their upbringing, only to have his sister bring his own parenting skills into question. Director Matt Ross skillfully presents both sides here without picking favorites.

Acting-wise the film is captivating, with Mortensen fitting the renaissance profile of Ben like a glove. He projects all the arrogance and hardheadedness of Ben together with his warmth, adoration for his children, and respect for his wife's wishes with grace and subtlety in one of the most seemingly effortless performances I have seen. He is also surrounded by an excellent supporting cast, from the children to his in-laws and sister.

In summary, Captain Fantastic is a rare case where family dynamics, with their controversies and dilemmas are not oversimplified to a preaching doctrine in the finale; the film allows the viewer the space to find their own balance on what it means to raise a child.

Captain Fantastic (2016) Movie Review

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