An introduction to the movie, “Captain Fantastic”
Posted on September 13, 2016
In this short review, I won’t summarize the content of the movie. If you’re unfamiliar with the content, please watch the trailer, linked at the end of the review.
It’s perhaps easier to say what the movie is not, then what it is. The movie is not trying to convince you that a left-leaning, off the grid, back-to-nature lifestyle is necessarily ideal or even desirable as a child rearing strategy. Some points are made in favour of such a lifestyle, and some against, but I don’t believe that this movie has an agenda. So don’t worry that Ben drives a gas guzzler, or that he takes his kids on a shop-lifting excursion.
The movie is a study of a family that is trying to do something better than what is conventional; that’s not going to drift with the tide. As an older parent, and now, a grandparent, I identified strongly with the basic idea of giving your kids more than what school, society and the previous generation offered. What parent doesn’t. Most of us aren’t as driven or idealistic as Ben Cash, the father played convincingly by Viggo Mortensen. But like many parents, we have in common with him, to do “X” when church, school, business associates, and especially, our own parents, seem to be doing “Y”. In parenting our own children, we didn’t live in the woods, live off the grid, or go rock climbing. We did camp a lot, and read some of the classics of literature seen in the movie. My political views have a little in common with Ben Cash, but like most viewers, I’m much more acquiescent than Ben Cash. But here were our touch-points with the movie, and this is true for all or most parents: we face resistance, and we make mistakes.
In this movie all the cares and caveats of parenting children in the face of a corrosive background culture are raised to another level from what we experienced, and probably from your experience. The dynamics and tensions presented by Cash’s moral and cultural framework within culture at large are an object lesson in social psychology, not to mention, fascinating and compelling drama, and a rip-roaring good tale. If you are reading this review and you’re not a parent, then my perspective may well be different from yours. But parent or not, we all have ideas on child-rearing and how it is best done, and what’s wrong and what’s right with our country and how life is generally lived. Yes, the movie touches on all of that, or aspires to do so. Here’s a chance to consider and think about what is done, what can be done, and what you’re doing now.
Again, this is not a heavy message movie, but a deeply thought provoking one. If there is a message, it is only this, from Noam Chomsky, as spoken by Rellian. (Rellian is at the very centre of the movie, I believe.) “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.” And that’s really what the movie is about.
Other notes: great script, every line and scene counts. Super, superb acting performances, the characters jump off the screen. My only caveat is that I was so worried about the outcome of the movie I couldn’t laugh as much as I wanted at the funny stuff. I’ll have to see this one again. Without spoiling anything for you, if you go, know that things work out okay, and just roll with it.
9 out of 10, which is my maximum on first viewing.