Much like its characters that inhabit the gorgeous forests of the American Northwest, ‘Captain Fantastic’ is a beautifully written, intellectually challenging film hidden from the masses making it somewhat of an unknown film. Its a shame because its one of the best films from 2016 – one that asks questions not only of its characters but also of modern day culture and what it means to be a parent.
The film follows troubled father Ben (Viggo Mortensen) who’s world is turned upside down when his wife dies and leaves him in care of their six children off the grid in the forests of America. Growing up with a strict physical and mental regime, the children live off the land; hunting for deer and fishing for food as well as reading in front of crackling campfires.
Despite their self sufficient lives, Ben receives a call during an essential supply run in the nearby town that forces him to pack up their things and take the kids to travel into the “real world” to attend the funeral of their Mother. It’s a great drama and one that plays out with a good use of humour, although it almost feels like a dark comedy at times.
The biggest draw here though is the astonishingly deep performance from Viggo Mortensen himself. Absolutely deserving of an Oscar nomination, Viggo portrays a man conflicted with what’s best for his children while trying to cling to his ideals he and his wife strived to live their lives by. This is further enhanced by the smartly written script that weaves sub-plots for each of the children that never overpowers the main plot but is enough to really give the film some much needed depth.
Overall, I would absolutely recommend ‘Captain Fantastic’. Its dramatic story tinged with dark humour plays out well with a decent pace and provides an interesting commentary into what it really means to be a parent. We really empathise with Ben and believe the world is weighing heavily down on his shoulders. The way he deals with this in a way that’s believable and also with his children’s best interests to heart, truly makes him worthy of the title, Captain Fantastic.
Verdict - 8/10