Captain Fantastic tells the story of Ben Cash who has been raising his six children off the grid alongside his wife until she was hospitalized a few months earlier. The kids range from little preschoolers to almost grown and they live a free and extremely well-read life out in remote woods. The family’s skills include athletic level fitness, hunting, cooking, academic pursuits and musical improv. When his wife dies he takes his children on a road trip to New Mexico to attend their mother’s funeral, despite warnings that his father-in-law that he will have him arrested if he attends. What follows is part coming of age story part family drama. Will Ben’s way prevail or will the children need to get in line with the usual American family upbringing?
Actor turned director and screenwriter has done an outstanding job on this absorbing story of both the pros and cons of an alternative lifestyle and a family torn apart by the loss of their matriarch due to mental illness. That’s some very challenging subject matter right there but it’s just delivered with ease, intelligence and sensitivity. The cast are all wonderful and Viggo Mortensen is on top form as idealistic father Ben. George MacKay as Ben eldest Bodevan is definitely a talent to watch and the younger cast members are both cutely funny and powerfully emotive.
Along with being a charming and sweet movie, Captain Fantastic questions so many of the modern day ingrained ideals about health, education, government, religion and of course parenting. In my eyes Ben doesn’t take a step wrong (apart from the bagpipes, the need to stop, we need a family meeting Ben!!!)
It’s the little touches like a father relationship with his son and the way even off-gridders still can’t keep up with what their teenager are into.
Captain Fantastic might seem sweet and innocent on the outside but is a very deep and serious film that casts a shadow on our less than fantastic modern way of life. A heartwarming watch that grips you from start to finish.
Reviewed by Ian Wright & Ingrid Grenar.