Captain Fantastic – Review

In the 1970s, ‘Captain Fantastic’ wouldn’t have been made. Forget the description of rape to an 8(ish) year old, or open conversation about mental health; the real issue would be Writer/Director Matt Ross’s criticism of capitalism and open attitude to lifestyles preached by ‘dem commies!

(I’ll just cover bases on political messages here; that’s being saved for my long review.)

Viggo Mortensen, sporting a Robin Williams beard, plays Ben, a father of 6 beautiful kids; who are all brought up under the shelter of the pines of America’s Pacific Northwest.

Ben and mother Leslie (Trin Miller) have them well drilled mentally. If it’s academic, they’ll recite it and have a well-informed opinion under 90 seconds (It happened in the film, I clocked it). Apparently ‘Interesting’ is a non-word, so I got a few reviewing pointers.

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But, the worst happens. Leslie, who was in hospital, kills herself.

“She finally did it,” Ben says. Clearly it was discussed. Ben stands nude under an old thundering waterfall he had lying around. Many heavy-handed metaphors follow.

They now must stop their Mother from being buried by her Christian family intent on burying her against her wish for a Buddhist cremation (and more details I won’t go into).

Ben explains how they can’t attend the funeral because power systems are wrong, and social services will take them away. Then he turns around, looks them in the eye and says “fuck that” and turns on the engine of their family bus.

Ross put a lot of thought into how he was going to direct this film; In the first three quarters, Grandfather is a pig and Grandmamma is just a poor well-intentioned accessory. Ben can do no wrong and you resent the rebellious son who wants to conform.

But the last quarter reveals all; this film is prismed. This is how Ben makes sense of events. The grandfather isn’t the complete delusional villain he seems.

Ben has hallucinations of his dead wife at various intervals throughout the film. She doesn’t seem like a woman suffering from bipolar, she constantly positive, which was jarring until the realisation; Ben only saw what he wanted to see.

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Viggo Mortensen’s acting was top notch; it required several interpretations of the same character as the film progressed.

George MacKay brutally overacted as the eldest child Bo, but he was the exception of the cast. He needed to overact because of some cringeworthy ‘integration’ scenes with the opposite sex.

Ben wasn’t all bad – he had some good ideas; you have this fantastic subplot of kids not needing cotton wool wrapping.

It provided comic relief and the *head tilt* ‘yeah, that’s true’ moments that made this film worth paying in to see (I didn’t, but that’s not the point).

I mentioned the youngest kid getting a description of rape, and it was in such a deadpan and matter-of-fact way that you couldn’t but wonder how Ben didn’t end up stuttering; A far cry from grumbles of Irish parents when people kiss in Fair City.

Wrapping kids up in the 70’s wouldn’t have been an issue worthy of discussion; but capitalism critique would be too much of an issue to discuss. A second watch would be the best call to get the most out of this film.

And a second review is on the way for when you get that far.

Captain Fantastic hits Irish Cinemas tomorrow, the 9th of September.

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