Living in the wilderness would be gruelling for most people, but the quirky gang in Captain Fantastic show us how it’s done.
Viggo Mortensen plays super-dad Ben Cash in this heart-warming drama. He is the father of six kids, who have very peculiar names like Rellian and Bodevan, and he raises his children deep in the woods, home-schooling them and training them to be the perfect survivalists. However, the outsider lifestyle Ben has fashioned for his children is put to the test when they’re forced back into modern society.
Initially, I had a hard time getting into Captain Fantastic, because I found it difficult to relate to the family. I mean, they are living in the wilderness after all, spending their days hunting animals for food, trekking through the woods and racing up mountains. Despite this though, I still found myself intrigued by the plot and eager to see how the film pans out. To my surprise around the half hour mark, the film really finds its feet, and I became fully invested in the family’s world. The characters are engaging, fun and well-developed, and the film has heart, energy and humour in abundance.
For this type of film, the acting needed to be exceptional to be able to make the plot believable. Viggo Mortensen is popularly known for his role as Aragon in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but his portrayal of the free-spirited Ben, couldn’t be anymore different. He delivers a hugely confident performance, playing a man who refuses to abide by the rules and influences of the modern world.
Indeed, Ben is a devoted father, making his kids read a vast number of books, but he’s extremely flawed at the same time. The children led by the oldest Bodevan (George MacKay), are all healthy and educated, but they have a very limited knowledge of modern life, and how to interact with ‘normal’ people. Although Ben’s intentions are good, he ultimately damages their social development and their understanding of mainstream society.
The young actors are all excellent. Their performances feel very natural and authentic. If there’s one thing that annoys me the most in a film, it’s the presence of an irritating child with cheesy dialogue. This isn’t the case at all in Captain Fantastic. Instead, we have a truly great assemble of junior actors, who are very all very convincing as wilderness children.
Captain Fantastic says a lot about the world we live in, and it expresses the importance of family and togetherness, as well as exploring what exactly defines a family. Ben and his children don’t live like regular people, but they are happy and at peace with one another. However, their off-the-grid lifestyle does start to fall apart over the course of the film. When they find themselves forced back into regular society, the children’s maternal grandparents decide to fight for custody, as they fear for their safety. This is when the drama turns up a gear, and I’m sure you’ll be rooting for Ben and his unconventional way of living.
The film balances major themes with genuine humour, as well as pulling on the heart-strings, because there are many touching and emotional moments. Director Matt Ross has delivered an excellent film that not only makes you laugh, but gives the viewer something to think about when the credits roll.
I’m a sucker for a feel-good movie and Captain Fantastic is exactly that. It’s a film I didn’t have on my radar, but now having watched it, I can’t stress enough how original and thought-provoking it is. It’s also very well written and I found the film to be a very immersive experience. Despite its emotional moments, Captain Fantastic is an uplifting and pleasantly unpredictable comedy-drama, that can be enjoyed by viewers of various ages.
Directed and written by: Matt Ross
Stars: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Samantha Isler
Distributor: Entertainment One
Run Time: 118 minutes
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