Movie Review- Captain Fantastic


You know the feeling when you go into a movie with zero expectations and end up being so moved and intellectually provoked that you feel the need to write about it? These are the best kinds of movies!

This movie is so not mainstream that I walked into the theatre expecting to watch a superhero movie. The movie opened on the breathtaking landscapes of the forests of the Pacific Northwest. All in all, if you love nature, are a hippie at heart and reject the notions of capitalism and organised society, this is THE movie to watch. But, other than the main theme of a family living autonomously, led by a “fantastic” patriarch, Ben Cash (very convincingly played by our very own ex Aragorn Viggo Mortensen) in the forest, away from civilization, the most interesting aspect of the movie is the director’s take on the notion of family. How parents shape their kids – the way they think, feel, behave, judge, act. In the movie, the kids undergo regular physical training during the day, learn how to subsist in the forest, hunt and skin game for food and take care of plants. More interestingly, they are home-schooled from scratch, and in the evenings, they read about quantum physics, mathematics, philosophy and literature. The children are also treated like real adults, being allowed to drink wine, to swear and are not cushioned by lies, but are told the bold truth because their parents trust them to be able to handle it well. The movie had really innovative notions about education – for example, when reading a book, they were discouraged to use the word “interesting”, instead they had to really critically analyse the way the text made them think and feel.

Training to make your body strong during the day, hunting for food, reading to feed the brain, and making music to bond as a family. Who needs anything else, really? It seems like the director Matt Ross made a movie about his dream way of best raising up his kids. Being able to wholly influence your kids in the “right” direction, with the right values, ways of critical thinking, right music, books, philosophies – this must be every parent’s fantasy.

Now for the matriarch. The movie starts with the news that the mother, Leslie, was bi-polar and could not be treated, even in the best facilities, and ended up ending her life. The six children are devastated – they want to attend the funeral. So they inevitably have to take their bus from their home to drive to New Mexico where Leslie’s parents were planning an elaborate funeral for her – when she wanted to be cremated. The scenes of the Cash children dealing with civilisation are hilarious, and each of the six children are extremely charming in their own unique way.

Well, however, like with all escapism stories (think the Beach movie), their underlying philosophy are put to test by the notion of physical and mental “safety”. Ben starts to blame himself for Leslie’s disease and for putting the children at risk. The movie has a mushy ending which almost (Ok, it did!) bring tears to my eyes, especially with this song which means so much to me already (this version is sung by the cast): Sweet Child of Mine

In fact, the whole movie soundtrack is epic, it makes me feel like I am actually in the Pacific Northwest forests in a bus called Steve. The soundtrack features the likes of Israel Nash, Sigur Ros, Jonsi and Alex, really, music for the soul. Whole soundtrack listing can be checked out here:

Anyway, a must watch – for parents, for wannabe parents, for families, for hippies, ex-hippies, those fed up with predictable movies, for those who want to be moved, for nature lovers, for a change – please watch it!

Best movie quote:

Rellian (the most angry and rebel of the 6 kids) :“If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world”.

Rating: 8.5