Starring: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Samantha Isler
Director: Matt Ross
Running Time: 118 mins
Captain Fantastic is an American film about a family who are uprooted from their life away from civilisation by the death of their mother. Forced to travel cross-country to attend the funeral, they begin to discover the real world, and question whether their current lifestyle is the way forward.
It’s not often that a film comes along that can almost completely change your view on something. Captain Fantastic is one of those excellently-written, directed and acted films that takes on the challenge of bringing you as the viewer round to the side of its main characters, and it works an absolute treat at the perfect time, making for a consistently engrossing and ultimately emotional watch.
The film centres on a family led by a hippy father who have relinquished all the comforts of the evil modern world of consumerism. For the majority of people watching, the first act, where we see them professing how brilliant their life in the forest is, it’s something that’s pretty much comical to see, and not really to be taken seriously.
Of course, the extent to which you’ll find their lifestyle comical is down to your own personal view at the start of this movie, but for me at least, a large portion of the first act is spent watching in an almost mocking perspective, and the film knows that well.
Early on, Captain Fantastic, whilst featuring moments of emotional drama, is all about the weirdness of this family’s lifestyle. There are almost no rules and prohibitions, but it’s such an extreme take on anti-capitalism that it’s mostly pretty funny to watch. However, the brilliance of this film is that, whilst it played along nicely with my own perspective and provided some good laughs, it subtly allows you to build a really strong bond with the main characters.
As bizarre as their way of life may be, the film never presents the characters as stupid or nasty, and that’s vital to allowing you to begin to sympathise with them as they come across great adversity when they’re out in the real world.
Gradually, I began to no longer side with the people on screen mocking the family, even though I had myself felt that way earlier on, because I had developed a strong connection with the characters. As a result, as the film builds to its climax, it becomes an incredibly tender drama with next to no big comedy.
The really impressive thing about Captain Fantastic is that it managed to really change my feelings towards this family, initially mocking them, but ultimately coming round to care for them and their way of life, making a huge difference to the emotional impact the film’s incredible final act has, and achieving something that’s so rarely done in films.
The development of your view towards the characters isn’t definitely going to be the same as mine, but I think the film is so well-written, and the performances from both Viggo Mortensen and his children as well as those in the real world are so fantastic, that it’s almost impossible to avoid changing your perspective to a degree by this film, and that’s what really makes this so special, which is why I’m going to give Captain Fantastic an 8.1.