Captain Fantastic  (2016)

My movie-watching habits have changed a great deal since becoming a father. I don't have the time to watch nearly as many movies as I used to, I can't watch things like 'Reservoir Dogs' or 'Predator' with Baby Varacchi in the room because now she's old enough to be scared, and I end up watching 'Frozen' or 'Moana' on repeat. I'm on a bit of a heavy run with 'Nocturama' and 'Brigsby Bear' before Captain Fantastic, but this is the first time in a while I've had tears in my eyes while watching a movie.

Ben Cash is raising his six children off the grid. They live in the wilderness in home-made shelters, they grow and hunt their food, they train and exercise to fine-tune their bodies, they shun capitalism and consumerism and organized religion and modern society in general. When a family tragedy forces them to leave their commune, the kids face a culture shock while Ben has to reckon with how he has raised his family.

I would love - LOVE - to sell off most of my stuff, throw my phone in a river, pack up a bus with clothes and books and survival gear and go live in the woods. The thing is, I'm an adult. I can make that decision for myself, I can decide what books I think are necessary and what philosophies I'd like to live by. The first snag hits when you realize that even if my wife is on board, no matter how much we agree at the moment we decide to do it, we still have to keep in mind that people change. Even if I remain passionate about living in the wild, maybe my wife starts to miss civilization; the question becomes who is "right" or "wrong", who gets to keep their chosen way of life. Beyond that, as much as I'd like to impart my wisdom upon my child and bring them up in a way I see fit, it's not fair to force her into a life of bathing in a river.

The big issue I have is that movie argues with itself. The family is mostly happy with their life, although some of it can be attributed to just not knowing any other way. The extended family who lives in normal society is shown as being somewhat inferior, and the movie pushes its philosophy hard. However, it makes an abrupt turn about three-quarters of the way, to the point where Viggo Mortensen's Ben basically gives up what he had devoted his life to. Right around this point the movie also took a turn that took me by surprise and actually wrecked my suspension of disbelief, nearly to the point of ruining the entire thing. There was some redemption by the end, but one sequence of the film just threw me completely off.

I'm not sure if this movie would have hit me quite as hard if I didn't have a child of my own. It's still well-acted (the six kids all had great moments to shine) and well-written, so it should tug on the heartstrings regardless of your status as a parent or not.

Ian Gavan/Getty Images

[Celluloid Hero] gives "Captain Fantastic" a 7 out of 10.

 

 

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