PLOT- Ben ( Viggo Mortensen) lives off-the-grid in the forests of the Pacific Northwest with his wife, Leslie (Trin Miller), and their six kids. They are teaching their children how to live off of the land and homeschooling them in philosophy, politics, and literature. Ben and Leslie have created a life for their family that feels idillic. The only hitch is Leslie has severe post-pardum depression. Leslie's wealthy parents (Frank Langella and Ann Dowd) disapprove of her lifestyle and offer medical help to her on the condition that she goes into a facility near their home in New Mexico. While in treatment, Leslie commits suicide, and Ben is told by her parents to stay away from the funeral. Ben and his kids decide to leave the forrest and take a road trip to say goodbye to Leslie, giving her the send off that she would have wished for, not the one that makes her parents comfortable.
LIKE- Captain Fantastic is quirky, thought-provoking, and very sweet. It's irreverent and often hilarious in a similar vein as one of my favorite films, Little Miss Sunshine. I was struck by the quiet moments in the film, long frames showing the family reading or thinking. This quiet balanced out the heavier and even violent moments in the film. Without the comedic undertone and quiet moments, Captain Fantastic would feel immensely heavy.
It's hard to dislike Ben, even when he's screwing up. He clearly loves his children and has raised them to be thoughtful, kind and curious humans. These are kids that you'd be proud if they were yours. However, his mistakes are many and some are brutal, which brings about a overriding theme of clashing parenting philosophies, and how to best prepare your child for the world in which we live. Is there truly a best way to raise a child?
I was surprised to learn that Matt Ross wrote and directed Captain Fantastic. Ross is also an actor, who seems to always be cast in a villain or "creepy guy" role. I didn't know that he also writes and directs. I look forward to checking out his other films. Speaking of actors, the cast of Captain Fantastic is great. I hope Mortensen is remembered for this role during awards season. All of the kids give solid performances. It's almost hard to believe that they are not really a family living in the PNW.
RECOMMEND- Yes. If you can catch it on the big screen, do so. Captain Fantastic is filled with beautiful landscapes and is a powerful story that sticks with you long after walking out of the theater.