Thoughts on “Captain Fantastic”

by weslar


Captain Fantastic is an outlandish family film. The cash’s live together in the woods beyond the reach of civilisation – living off the land and all that it can give. The responsibility has fallen upon Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) to take care of his 6 kids as his wife Leslie is taken ill and under care in the city. Their kids all imbue the independent nature of their father & their made-up and to be perfectly honest interestingly unique names adheres to their qualities as independent.

Their names; Bo (George Mackay), Kielyr (Samantha Isler), Vesper (Annalise Basso), Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton), Zaja (Shree Crooks) and Nai (Charlie Shotwell) all playing their roles in the family as keen to be separate from one another but that still come together as one.

In the beginning we are welcomed into their home and realise, in an instant, that they are of their own making. The cabins built in the middle of the woods provide an idea of time and scale as to their motivations.

The real estate surrounding them is luscious in natural beauty, but also in practicality. Providing them with sustainability and wonder at the same time. In addition to their on-the-road bus converted into their own portable home, which is where we see them the most for the length of the film.

The film falls under the category of a road movie, and rightfully so. Most of the running time the family move from place to place to eventually arrive at their destination, all of which is revealed in the opening act.

An emotional journey takes them through such realisation as to what life is really like, from the perspective of the kids they know little of the real world and have been submerged in literature and teachings by their father, to understand this Ben focus’ his teachings on the written word, tasking them with challenges and keeping them in check; testing them on what they’ve read. Creating a father/teacher dynamic that feels sincere in intention, as you understand later when in comparison with state educated children.

The life experience is realised once we see Bo, the promising young academic fall in a quick trance of love with a girl he’s never met before. Under the impression of instinct over pragmatism, he quickly proposes and is laughed of as it is responded to as a joke, by, the funny guy. Then it’s over – a moment of pure chemical reaction, but that is all he needed to feel real, to understand what he’s been missing, a cruel revelation to Bo.

The film keeps the family central to the story, their lives are the motivation that pushes the film along to give you an understanding of who they are, why they are who they are and the most important, where they’re going. This is all told with details of their character most noticeable is through the eyes of Rellian, the teenager of the group, feeling a sense of rebellion at the angst he’s experiencing.

Most interesting is the fact he is the one that sees what their life is really like and who has deconstructed it and fallen folly of its charm, and wants to be a part of something civilised and established.

The visuals aid in the close, tight nit personality of the characters in the world they inhabit a courageous view of a family so in sync, that their pain and their separation feels saw and apt to being relatable in some way.

The music, settles you into the atmosphere and the range it takes is to see it through a different perspective. The finale has a rendition of one of my favourite songs which defines it as their own, unique take. I won’t spoil it but it’s the most delicate – then joyous – take on the song to date.

If there’s one thing that I took from this film is that life falls into many things but the way you approach it is your only concern. The morals and ethics are each to their own, but this film points out the positives and negatives that connote the reason for choosing each side. The remote teachings from literature and personal experience opposed to the classical education system draws parallels in method, but not in result, showing that whatever it is to be human is in the way you want to pursue it.

Captain Fantastic by far imprinted itself onto me as a film that takes me away to that special place, but if I stay too long I’ll probably break down and cry – the perfect justification.