I really liked this film. It’s another that was somewhat under the radar that I think audiences would love if they knew a bit more about it. So… Captain Fantastic is about a single father raising six kids somewhere in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. He’s teaching them to be resourceful and both intellectually and physically rigorous. But a death forces the family to leave their paradise for the real world and confront the pros and cons of their cut-off existence. It’s funny, touching, and thought provoking.
I’ll admit that any movie that has a family stop on the road to celebrate Noam Chomsky’s birthday gets an Arty Chick stamp of approval, not because I am a Chomsky acolyte, but because it is a genius way to tell us exactly who this family is. The gist of the film is: Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) is living his version of the free life out in the woods with his kids. They eschew Corporate America and all it stands for. They hunt and grow their own food. Study a variety of heady subjects and discuss them around a campfire. Push their athletic abilities to the limit, and seem to have a warm and happy family. But suddenly a family death intrudes, and they’re forced to take a long road trip to their Grandparents’ house, a world away from what they’ve known, in the arid Southwest with “normal” people. For the kids it’s eye-opening and alluring. For Ben it is painful and aggravating, especially when Grandpa (Frank Langella) decides to take the children away from him to introduce them back into the real world. And you realize they both have valid reasons and both think they’re doing what is best for the children.
Captain Fantastic definitely has a Little Miss Sunshine feel about it. The kids are a wild bunch and their antics on the road hilarious. The film grapples with child rearing and home schooling and family dynamics and mental illness and so many things, and it is sad and funny and thoughtful, frequently at the same time. The kids are great and Mortenssen and Langella are perfect ideological sparing partners. I highly recommend it. Great on a big screen TV. Currently streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus.