CAPTAIN FANTASTIC is unapologetically off-grid
Viggo Mortensen (A History of Violence) plays his most authentic role in recent years in Matt Ross’ (HBO’s Silicon Valley) Captain Fantastic, now available on demand. Ben Cash is raising his six children completely off-grid and self-sustained in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. His clan practices various socialist strategies, strict scheduling and grueling physical and mental conditioning. As a result, Ben’s kids are physical warriors and extraordinarily smart free-thinkers. He doesn’t patronize them, offering an uncensored view of the world outside their idyllic circle.
It’s this measure of parenting which Captain Fantastic posits for the audience. Are you raising your kids right?
Ben believes he is doing it right and in many ways, maybe so, but he and his kids are socially clumsy and borderline dangerous. We learn this when Ben saddles-up the family for a cross-country trip to ensure his estranged wife receives the proper obsequies requested in her will. Ben’s wife, Leslie (Trin Miller), took her life. She had bipolar illness which Ben suspects began with postpartum depression. Her father Jack Bertrang, played by Frank Langella, blames Ben and his unapologetic lifestyle for her death. Langella is in good form here. You can’t help but dislike Jack while also feeling he’s onto something. Ben has encouraged his children to steal and manipulate, and they are often put into danger.
Is Ben raising his kids right? Yes and also very much no. At least, that’s what Captain Fantastic attempts to lay to rest. We believe Ben has that eye-opening moment, that his parenting style isn’t perfect and perhaps even reckless. But the film takes a questionable left turn in the third act. I won’t spoil it, but the sequence puts into question whether Ben learned anything at all.
Disclaimer: to a much smaller degree, I too live off-grid, traveling the country full-time in my RV and calling campgrounds my home. I’m a sucker for this type of film and am recommending it here. There are missteps but it still manages to incite conversation from viewers. The direction and acting are all-around solid. Viggo is perhaps even Oscar-nom worthy. Captain Fantastic is available on Digital HD today and certainly worth your time.