Captain Fantastic tells the story of Ben Cash, a man raising his family in isolation in the woods, living responsibly, practically and happily until circumstances mean they have to re-establish themselves into society.
I got this film. I got what it was trying to say. Although it got a bit muddled and a little too fantastical at parts, the overarching themes were there. It touches upon themes like the right to education, parenting skills, loss, mental illness, blame and conforming to society rules. Not only this, it is a touching film.
It’s the small details that get me rather than the entire plot, which although great and different, can sometimes seem over-reaching and over the top. The small details like the perfectly crafted mise-en-scene; the labels on each of the plants with which children planted them, the costumes that actually look like they’ve been worn and loved everyday up till then and the details the director gives to make it more personal and engrossing. There’s a moment which you see a photo of Ben (Viggo Mortenson) and his wife on their wedding day, you only glance over it for a couple of seconds but you can feel Ben’s loss just by looking at this picture with him. Then later in the film he turns up at his wife’s funeral wearing the same suit he was wearing in the picture. It is the little things like that, that made me love this film. It made me believe that the director actually cared about his work and put in the time to give us little snippets of this character’s life that we may ultimately glance over and not think anything of but just knowing they are there makes the difference.
The film struggles because it has no real antagonist. You could say the character of Jack, who is the children’s grandfather is the proverbial “baddie” because he tries to take the children away from Ben however the film does not make that clear because overall we can see he is just trying to do his best after the death of his daughter. In-fact everyone who the film wants to pick out as being a antagonistic plot device are all actually good people. Perhaps the main antagonist of the show is society. The film picks out everything wrong with today’s society and drags it through the mud. It is entertaining to watch the children quote Noam Chomsky and Ben answer his son’s innocent question “What’s Cola?” with the words “poison water”.
Viggo Mortenson is outstanding in this role. The thing I love about the actor is that, just like Daniel Day Lewis and Leonardo DiCaprio, he waits for the right role and takes care in preparing for it. So he may only do one film a year but we all know he’s going to be fucking great in it. The child actors are all on par with Mortenson, they hold their own. George MacKay may be the shining star of the film though. His performance was incredible, ranging from hysterically funny to heart-breaking.
4.5 Stars. (Yes, It’s fantastic).