2016’s Captain Fantastic is a relatively low budget yet incredible ‘comedy drama’ film starring Viggo Mortenson in the lead role as a father of a large family, who having abandoned ‘modern life’ a number of years ago, find themselves taking a road trip to attend their mother’s funeral in New Mexico.
The film is both written and directed by Matt Ross, whose only previous film direction was 28 Hotel Rooms, but actually is more known for acting roles on TV (Big Love and Silicon Valley) and a number of small film roles in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
Somewhere in the wilderness of Washington USA, we meet the Cash family and their six children, fresh back from hunting a deer, they are living a life that has rejecting the lifestyle of capitalism, commerce, Technology and instead live one of arts, craft, self sufficiency and philosophy.
The father of the family Ben (Mortensen) runs training sessions in the mornings and through the day schools them on everything from new languages to literature.
The current absence of their mother, due to an illness that she is fighting in a hospital in New Mexico, turns to loss when they find that she has passed away and will be having a funeral in 5 days.
After much debate, in part having been told that Ben’s presence at the funeral is unwelcome by her father (played by Frank Langella), the family board their bus, called ‘Steve’, and head off on a journey. The journey is partly a ‘mission’ to save their mom from a funeral that she wouldn’t have wanted, and what becomes a time of self discovery for the family, as they all begin to reflect on the lifestyle that they have.
This film is beautiful. It is very carefully constructed, beautifully shot and gently leads you through a story which has moments of real humour, and moments of real sadness.
In terms of performances – Mortensen is a huge part of the quality of the film with one of the best of his career. Langella too with only a small role delivers some powerful moments. The performances of the children of the family (especially their eldest Bo by George MacKay) are impressive and offer up much of the humour as they discover how other children their age live.
The score too also too out for me, which was written by Alex Somers.
The film is incredibly thought provoking. It will make you think about the way that you would like to live your life, and if you have children, what it is that you want them to learn in their early years. It holds up a mirror to modern life in 2017, in a friendly humorous way, but also in a way leaves you moved.
Ironically, for a film with a title that sounds almost part of the marvel universe, or at least part of a genre of popcorn cinema, it is the exact opposite. It is a beautiful film that I couldn’t stop watching. I loved every minute of it and couldn’t recommend it more highly.