Captain Fantastic (2016) Review
Updated: Aug 27
In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.
A philosophical man who only sees one true way of living and bringing up children who are outside of the capitalistic ideologies of society is challenged when his world begins to crumble.
It's refreshing to see the world that the film creates outside of the normalities of American capitalism and at first, it is very tribal and you don’t expect them to just be living in woodlands in the US but outback near a war scene. Ben (Viggo Mortensen) has a great perspective of the world and teaches his children everything they need to learn to survive in the world without hospitals and without supermarkets to go shopping for food. Instead of opting for the option of teaching them all from a very young age even the age of 6 being able to hunt.
Ben also teaches his children their education setting them assignments and teaching them about systems that create a society and the life that he believes is all they need. He tries to raise ‘great philosophers’ but it is only when his son, Bodevan (George MacKay), a name that was made up so he is unique and the only one in the world, goes behind his back and applies to the top universities and gets into every single one. A great scene where the perspective of ideologies of life really clash and Ben can’t seem to understand what Bodevan means. The respect that Bodevan has for his father is great but isn’t afraid to respect his own decision of applying to universities so he can learn about life and experiences his father cannot teach him.
Bens character had a great arc and one that had to learn that the way he has bought up his children might not be the best for them and his character suffers this amazing internal battle of whether he is to give his children to family to experience ‘normal’ modern-day life and he carries on with what life he believes he needs to be happy or whether he thinks they should stay with him and in turn knowing he will deprive them of life that they might end up wanting. He knows that he has to make this decision and the final shot of the movie perfectly sums up how Bens character feels. It is not his happiness that you see but the life that he is looking ahead with his kids surrounding him at the table reading and working. The life that Ben now faces is one of how he is going to figure out how to find his happiness and I think that will be through his children but paying homage to the way he has bought them up.
This film really delves deep into philosophical ideas and the conflict really comes from the main character and it is a tug of war about philosophical beliefs. Do I believe it works? It does to an extent but at the same time, I think it is guilty of drowning itself in its philosophy. The story is so character-driven and for me personally, sometimes I found it hard to relate to Ben which made it harder for me to believe his character.
Overall, I rate this movie a 3.5/5.