By Nina Bovan (Belgrade, Serbia)
captain-fantastic-2

 

This movie is something else. Second feature film by Matt Ross introduces us to an eccentric family living somewhere in the forests of North America. Imagine a mishmash of Moonrise Kingdom, Little Miss Sunshine and The Room, and you will get the feel of this family drama. Cast is led by Viggo Mortensen, including couple of familiar faces such as Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn and Frank Langella, and six newcomers, who by the looks of these performances have a lot in store for us.

What is it about? Simply put, Ben (Mortensen) is a widower with six kids, living in a forest and without another human being in sight. Tickled your fancy? There’s more. At the very beginning, we learn that kids have unique names, unique way of living, studying and understanding the world around them. As the story unfolds, we find out what happened to their mother and how that affects them all. Ben is forced to accept the reality and the consequences which this alternative lifestyle has brought to his children. All of them are exceptionally smart and well-read, but slowly some of them come to the realization that they are not capable to live in the “real” world. Yes, they know American law and political theories, yes, they can climb a mountain and hunt, but faced with modern-day world they cannot function.

Although this movie makes fun of the American educational system in a very comical scene, it also shows a negative side of homeschooling. Zaja (Shree Crooks) is almost too smart for her age and one cannot shake the feeling that it would be better for her to enjoy her childhood. Same goes for the rest of them, including oldest son Bo (George MacKay) who hilariously experiences his first crush. Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton), the middle son, is the first one who openly rebels against his father’s ways and decides to stay with his grandparents. A decision, which, you guessed, wasn’t kindly welcomed.

Ben is painfully honest with his children; he doesn’t hide anything from them and most definitely doesn’t sugarcoat anything. His beliefs are clashing with those of his sister Harper (Hahn) and her husband Dave (Zahn). But what else could be expected of a father who lets all of his children drink alcohol, gives them real knives and “The Joy of Sex”? Contradictions in his approach are visible though; he teaches them that it is okay to make fun of Christians, but then they act as a Christian sect in order to scare away a policeman. They steal food at the supermarket through a thought out con. Only when a near fatal tragedy is evaded, does Ben stop to think about his actions. That and the prospect of losing his children serve as a wake-up call.

This moving and thought-provoking movie offers a display of parental love, an extreme case of it, but nevertheless love. If you are looking for a decent indie sadcom this year with an exquisite folk soundtrack, you found it. Captain Fantastic is that and much more.

Rating: 4/5

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