Film review – Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross, 2016)

Captain Fantastic is not the latest in the never-ending chain of Marbel superhero films. Nor is it a profile of former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, who is fantastic for about half of Liverpool and few others.

No, despite the title, Captain Fantastic is the directorial debut full-length feature from Matt Ross, better known as Gavin Belson from Silicon Valley. Beyond the superficial veneer of a twee, heartwarming, quirky indie flick, there is something a little more substantial and special at work here.

Viggo Mortensen takes the lead role as Ben Cash, a father raising six children as an only parent after his wife is hospitalised with bipolar disease. Nurturing them off-grid in a sort of wilderness commune, he is forced to bring them back into society when he receives the news that his wife has committed suicide. The journey to New Mexico for the funeral forces him to re-evaluate his choices in bring up his children, exposing them all to a world they have shunned.

Many of the greatest films to grace our screens have us questioning are inner-most philosophies. Whilst this isn’t likely to be considered an all time great, it does push the right buttons in its ability to be thought-provoking. The six children are for the most part absolutely happy, well educated, physically fit individuals that seem to have had no ill-effects from the unique brand of homeschooling afforded by their father Ben. The portrayal from them is so convincing that I was left seething when their families began to interfere and bring them back into “normality”. 

One thing that was very evident was the chemistry between the six children and Mortensen. George MacKay takes centre stage as eldest child Bo on the brink of leaving for college but struggling to find the best way to tell a father to whom he is completely devoted. Samantha Isler and Annalise Basso are great as the inseperable pair Kielyr and Vespyr. Charlie Shotwell,  Nicholas Hamilton and Shree Crooks all have extremely bright futures in the industry, the latter of the three having a charismatic charm that brought an element of hilarity to everything she said.

It is this sense of comradery and unbreakable dedication that is essential to the success of the film and without it we’d be left with nothing. Thankfully it’s here in abundance.

The music from Alex Somers (Sigor Ros producer) plays into the mood perfectly, reflecting the subtle charm of the visuals on screen. It’s non-offensive but beautifully balanced.

A must-see, feel-great film.

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