Captain Fantastic (2016)


A Review by Jon Caron

Writer/Director: Matt Ross

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Frank Langella, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn

To paraphrase a line from the film, “That’s the plot, tell me how it made you FEEL.” So, without regurgitating too deeply on what Captain Fantastic is about, I will attempt to do just that…tell you how it made me feel. This is no easy task mind you, a film this deeply layered with philosophy, beauty and unabashed intellect, could be discussed for days. This is not just one of the best films of 2016, this is one of the best films ever made. Period.

In summation, Viggo Mortensen (Ben) is a super badass, hippy genius, who has been living in the woods for the better part of two decades along with his brood of seven children and up until recently ill wife, who now stays in a hospital. In the freedom of the wilderness, he teaches them everything from rock climbing, hunting, intense physical fitness, to music and quantum mechanics. He teaches them what he perceives to be an ideal way of life. Shaping them for a world that is so wonderfully perfect and poetic, it exists nowhere but where they already reside. A paradise of learning and art, combined with the raw, rugged harshness of nature to hone them to razor sharp perfection. “Our children shall be philosopher kings, it makes me so indescribably happy.

That particular line resonated so powerfully with me in ways that are hard to describe and might be hard for most people to relate to. It’s almost as if this movie saw inside of my soul and created a universe where I was understood and could stay forever. A world where I can indulge in every primal aspect of my ape dna, all the while sharpening my intellect and talking out problems with a refreshingly calm and relaxed open forum. The world in which this film exists and that these characters live in, is so simple and beautiful. It is everything human beings should be. Strong, smart, capable, calm and reasonable. It is a world that I am so desperately trying to create for myself, but can never seem to get 100% right, because I am still clinging to the world which we all live in.

The “real world” as it were, is thrust upon us as Ben’s wife passes away and after much deliberation he decides to take the children to her funeral, where her grandparents (who despise Ben) threaten him with jail should he show up. Thus begins our journey into the world, the one we all live in and after living in such lush, exquisite freedom, it is an outright hell. Everyone they come across is intellectually inferior, ignorant and rude. Interactions are clumsy and must be tiptoed around, as nobody can handle the simple and logical truth to the words of our protagonists. We are reminded of the toxic food we eat, obesity, the mindless escapism of our cell phones, how little your average person actually knows and the backlash that comes from unintentionally making them feel inferior through their own fear of what they do not understand. I’m sure that these scenarios aren’t entirely unfamiliar to anyone who has had interactions with someone who may not be on the same wavelength intellectually or physically speaking. There is a general unease when people are approached by someone like this, it makes them feel inferior and defensive. Almost as if they are being attacked personally, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Your life is your own to live and if you are feeling inferior and defensive due to being around someone who is on a different level than you are, then perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the situation and bring yourself up to their level. It’s all a matter of choice. What may seem crazy to you, is just another way of life for someone else.

Whether you choose to live yours blindly, simply going through the motions, or if you choose to seize each day, fill it with knowledge, discipline and understanding, there is no real right or wrong. Just a way of life. However you choose to get by in yours, this film proposes the simple and unfortunately unfathomable truth…that while there is no right or wrong, we are all here together and should be striving for more. That knowledge and strength aren’t something to be feared, but are tools for building a better world for everyone to live in. I long to live in the world Captain Fantastic brings so beautifully to life.

-FilmFrak Jon-

Final score: 5/5

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