Captain Fantastic

Title: Captain Fantastic
Director: Matt Ross
Genre: Drama, Comedy.
Main Cast: Viggo Mortensen, George Mackay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Frank Langella, Katherine Hahn.
Runtime: 119 mins
IMDb rating: 7.9/10.
My rating: 10/10.
Quick summary: Matt Ross drew upon his own experience growing up with alternative parents to make this fantastic movie. My rating of 10/10 is purely objective. I can be very biased and if I love a movie I tend not to see its downfalls or its lack of appeal to other people. If you like indie movies with a heavy focus on family relationships and the outside world, this is for you.

Plot

Viggo Mortensen is the father of six kids who are strong, intelligent and able to live in the wild. But can the family survive in the real world?

Ben Cash and his six kids rise every day, go through a rigorous physical exercise regime and then read textbooks and classic literature. They hunt and kill game for their food, each member of the family playing a part. No matter how young or old the kids are, they all have their roles in this alternative family. At night they sit around the campfire. They give their father reports on what they have read in their books so far and then play rousing songs on their instruments. On the surface they are a happy unit, living in tandem with nature in their hut out in the forest.
Ben’s wife, Leslie, is sick. We come to find out that she committed suicide. To make matters worse, Leslie’s father blames Ben for her suicide and forbids him from going to the funeral in New Mexico. What follows is a weird and wonderful roadtrip in which the socially uneducated kids try to fit in with their rude cousins, friendly strangers and their estranged grandparents. Through it all, will the family stay together or will the cracks appear in the modern world?

Verdict

I think it is plain to see from my previous reviews that this film is right up my street. A tale of love, family and colliding world-views, it is a perfect film for the RathpeaconRambler. It gets right into the swing of things from the start, where we join the Cash family hunting a deer. The oldest son, Bodevan (MacKay) tackles it to the ground and kills it in front of his father and five younger siblings. This includes the two youngest, Zaja (Shree Crooks) and Nai ( Charlie Shotwell), who can’t be more than five or six years old respectively.
It is clear and blindingly obvious that we are not dealing with your typical modern family. We learn more about Ben and Leslie’s relationship, their view for the lives of their kids and their own misgivings during their hilarious roadtrip. Ben even explains the intimate details of sex to Nai, leaving nothing out of his descriptions. Nai, understandably, looks shocked and appalled but then continues on with his studies.

Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Annalise Basso, Samantha Isler, Shree Crooks, Nicholas Hamilton, and Charlie Shotwell in Captain Fantastic (2016)
Ben Cash and his wonderful troupe, ©Bleecker Street

There are some beautiful moments towards the end of the movie. As Ben’s life unravels and the kids realise they could lose their father, the story brings the characters closer together. His last goodbye to his wife would bring a tear from a stone. Luckily K was asleep when that scene happened and I could cry in peace. And by cry, I mean blink away tears so fast you ain’t ever even seen ’em 😎

Performance

Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic (2016)
Viggo Mortensen as Ben Cash

Viggo Mortensen was absolutely outstanding in this project. In saying that, he is absolutely outstanding in absolutely everything I’ve seen him do. He was magnificent in Green Book, glorious in Lord of the Rings franchise and unbelievable in The Road. He is equally as good in this as he is in all three of the aforementioned pieces, if not better. His portrayal of Ben as a loving, strict but kind father in so real, especially his way of showing that Ben always believes he is right, even when faced with the imminent danger of his children by his own hand.

George MacKay in Captain Fantastic (2016)
Mackay as Bodevan Cash

George Mackay is powerful as Bodevan, Ben and Leslie’s eldest son. His blind devotion to his father is tested and fractured throughout. This is wonderfully shown by Mackay’s face. That sounds weird and looks like I’ve written it in error but his face is so full of expression and movement that you can see every thought going through his head.

Worlds collide

Katherine Hahn is one of my favourite actresses. She can turn her hand to comedy, romance and drama, flitting between genres like nobody’s business. She is brilliant as Ben’s frustrated younger sister, imploring him to put the children in school and bring them up like her kids, ie. ‘Normal’.

Captain Fantastic (2016)

The cast of the kids are all equally brilliant, quirky and enjoyable to watch. Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso and Nicholas Hamilton are all brilliant actors. I read on iMDBs trivia page that the cast of kids would call Mortensen their ‘Summer Dad’ for the duration of shooting. It shows in their performance as the relationship between them is so real and vivid. They worship the ground he walks on while resenting him slightly at the same time. They want to protect him at all costs while realising that he is not always right. Powerful performances.

Viggo Mortensen, Matt Ross, George MacKay, Annalise Basso, Erin Moriarty, Trin Miller, Samantha Isler, Shree Crooks, Nicholas Hamilton, and Charlie Shotwell at an event for Captain Fantastic (2016)
It would take a fun cast to make a movie like this! © Jeff Kravitz

This film is perfect for quarantine. It takes place largely outdoors in the wilderness, and if you’re in self-isolation then there are plenty of inter-family arguments for you to experience and think back on your own family! It is on Irish Netflix for definite.
My rating of 10/10 is purely objective. I can be very biased and if I love a movie I tend not to see its downfalls or its lack of appeal to other people. If you like indie movies with a heavy focus on family relationships and the outside world, this is for you. If not, stop reading now and wait for my next review on Happy Valley, an extremely well-produced and performed show with enough senseless violence for a few nights of the lockdown! Wait patiently and read nothing else!

Stay safe out there ✌

Cian

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