RELEASED 2016 RUNTIME 96 MIN LANGUAGE ENGLISH DIRECTION MATT ROSS SCREENPLAY MATT ROSS STARRING VIGGO MORTENSEN, GEORGE MacKAY, SAMANTHA ISLER, ANNALISE BASSO, NICHOLAS HAMILTON, SHREE CROOKS, CHARLIE SHOTWELL, KATHRYN HAHN, TIM MILLER, STEVE ZAHN, FRANK LANGELLA, ANN DOWD MUSIC ALEX SOMERS
Captain Fantastic is about an unusual family (5 kids and their dad) who live in the woods, embracing a self sustaining lifestyle and growing up apart from western society. When they get the message that their sick mother has died in the hospital, they go on a road trip. But in order to make it to her wedding they have to become exposed to the outside world.
When you read the synopsis and watch the trailer, you may get the idea that this is one of these movies which really wants to teach you all about how bad you live your life and that becoming a hippie is the only appropriate way how to become respectful of your environment. In other words, it makes it sound like a cheese-fest. But don’t be fooled. This is actually one of the best movies this year and it raises a lot of questions. So much so, that after leaving the theater, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and was looking for a discussion with anybody. But there is no right answer.
First, the performances are really great. Viggo Mortensen excels in the role of a single hippie dad. I was wondering, if he actually is a hippie in real life. That’s how authentic his part feels. Also all the children in his family are fantastically played by Geroge MacKay, Samtantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton and Shree Crooks. Their chemistry works and their behavior in the consumer environment just feels right for people who have not been exposed to it for a very long time or in some cases never. It also feels a little bit like the fish out of the water story, where our protagonists have to learn how the “real” world works apart from what they have read in books.
The best example of that is a scene involving the oldest brother () and a girl he meets at a camping site. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s awkward. So many emotions go through your head as you watch their interaction unfold on screen. And really these are the moments where the movie becomes its strongest. It’s raising questions about society and life styles and the actors really bring it to the table.
Whereas in the first half it feels like the movie tries to hammer you with the notion that you should be self sustaining and be one with nature again and that western society is bad and poisons our minds and health (basically you are a fool for living that way), somewhere in the middle the movie starts to shift. It’s that time that the family meets the second half of the cast who play their respectful family members that have stayed in the city. There is a round table dinner scene with Viggo’s family (his name is Ben actually 😉 ) and one of his daughter’s family that live like “normal” people. As the scene unfolds you begin to see the flaws of both sides.
But where it really comes through is a scene at the funeral and after involving Ben’s father in law. That’s the point where the movie’s messages really begins to shine and explains that there is no right way. Actually, it doesn’t tell you that. Instead it presents you the arguments and flaws for both and then leaves you with that. It also gives some comments about religious views and how pathetic we are. But it also relativises these as it moves on to the finale.
When the finale happens and the movie wraps up you really start to think about the entire picture. And that’s good. When a movie can make you think about something without giving you a definite answer, that’s a great achievement. You understand both sides and you start forming an own opinion. I appreciate that very much. There is no villain in the story. It’s just two sides of a coin that are being portrayed against each other.
Captain Fantastic is a hell of a surprise and definitely one of the best movies of the year so far. It is a clever portrait of western society and people trying to find the right path of how to live their lives. Consumerism vs Natural living are being held up against each other. But in the end you have to find your own answer what’s right and what’s not according to your beliefs. There just is no right answer. Sure, on the one hand, we as a modern society are pathetic, but on the other, we can’t be ignorant either and think people are bad for living in the bubble. It’s like being vegan nowadays. Don’t be the pretentious dude who constantly needs to tell everyone how awesome veganism is and that’s the only right way to eat. But also don’t be the asshole who makes fun of vegans for being weird in your eyes. They have a point after all.
It’s a hell of a message and, therefore, Captain Fantastic should not be missed.