CAPTAIN FANTASTIC (2016)

This is an exciting and truly original film from actor and director Matt Ross who most will know from Silicon Valley, HBO comedy series, as Gavin Belson; he also wrote the film. Captain Fantastic is about a non-conformist family who live off the grid in the woods and the six children led by their father Ben (Viggo Mortensen) are young intellectuals who have been homeschooled by their parents and have no interaction with the outside world. Their daily routines in the woods consists of hunting and gathering, military style training, reading assigned books, openly discussing Marxism and making convincingly good music that you wouldn’t mind listening to an album from the family. The problem arises when Ben’s carefully structured lifestyle is compromised when the sick mother, who equally supports this idea of sheltering the kids from the outside world, gets considerably worse and as her condition deteriorates they have to make their way into the city. So the first third of the film mainly takes place in the woods then it turns into a road movie and that is where all the laughs come in and the last third of the film shows the extended family dynamics.

The oldest son named Bodevan, a made up name chosen by his parents to make him unique, is played by George Mackay and his character has a lot going on and he steals the show in many scenes. He has complete faith in his dad, even though he secretly applied to all the ivy league schools (got accepted to all of them) and still has hopes of integrating with the real world. He becomes more critical of his father’s ways when he realizes that unless it comes from a book, these kids don’t know anything about this world and how to interact with kids their own age. On their trip, they visit Ben’s sister and her husband (Kathryn Hahn and Steve Zahn) and there is a clash of culture and upbringing when their kids interact that makes for great entertainment. The last third deals with Ben’s rocky relationship with his father-in-law (Frank Langella) who could have ended up just being a typical bad guy, but he is more concerned than he is critical about how the parents have decided to lead their lives. This is a story of extreme parenting, but the family is believable even though they don’t interact like the usual dysfunctional family and strangely settle arguments by having an open discourse. The movie asks the audience to self-reflect and points out the banality of our day to day existence; in the end the question lies in whether Ben is the best or worst father in the world. I went to see this with a group of people and after leaving the cinema, the film sparked discussion which is what a movie should do. The main appeal of the movie was of course Viggo who is great in this complex role. Captain Fantastic is unsurprisingly fantastic and one of the better movies of 2016. (9/10)

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