Summary: In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.
Cast and Characters.
Viggo Mortensen as Ben Cash. He lives with his wife and children in the Washington wilderness. He is not into the whole “American lifestyle” and teaches their children survival skills, left wing politics among other things. He home schools them, he encourages them to read books and to talk about it, he allows his children to freely express themselves, even if that includes cursing. He tells them the truth, he doesn’t sugar coat anything and I actually liked that about him. I think if parents trusted their children a bit more, they might be surprised how their children (especially their older ones) react. This is a perfect role for Viggo Mortensen. His laid back persona makes this character work and to keep him likable. It would be really easy to make Ben an unlikable rude dude due to him not conforming to social norms, like not letting his children drink wine (great scene in the film), or explaining sex etc. But I think Mortensen manages to do so.
George McKay as Bo Cash. I thought he was a standout. I really like George McKay. Bo is the oldest of the kids, he is about 18 and he is crossing over into manhood (which the film starts out with him doing a “ritual” of sorts). He is obviously very intelligent but he is socially awkward as he has spent most of his life away from other people. There is a point in the beginning of the film where he runs into some girls at a store he and his father go to and he has no idea what to say to them. There is another scene later with another girl. He knows that he’s weird and it doesn’t seem to bother him much but as he is becoming his own man, he begins to want things outside of where they live and his family. I think McKay was fantastic here. He was very quiet, always in the background, prepared to do what he needs too. His American accent was also very good.
The other kids. So there are five other children: Keilyr, Vespyr, Rellian, Zaja and Nai. They all do very well too. Rellian has a lot of anger and it’s easy to see in the beginning, it comes to everyone’s notice later on in the film. Keilyr and Vespyr are the teenage girls, not sure who was oldest (I think Vespyr) but they had a great relationship with each other. Zaja and Nai were the youngest girl and boy. Zaja was very smart compared to other kids her age and Nai being the youngest, a lot of stuff he says is hilarious.
The Cinematography. As soon as the film starts, we are greeted with shots of the forest and I immediately said “wow, this looks beautiful”. The look of this film, it’s so warm and crisp. As the characters live in the wilderness and pretty much wear whatever the want, the colors are so vibrant and bright, not to mention, Vespyr and Keilyr have red hair (like their mother) and their hair is definitely captured very beautifully on screen. There is a scene at the end, where they’re dancing around a bonfire, that’s probably my favorite scene and the look has a lot to do with it.
The Music. With a film like this, I can imagine the music being very important and Alex Somers manages to create a score that is not only whimsical, but sad and in a way uplifting. I really liked it. Coupled with the beautiful cinematography, the ambiance and feel of the film was elevated for me. The song chosen at the end, was chosen well. It fit.
The Dinner Scene. I don’t want to spoil anything in particular, but there are two scenes involving the family that were the most memorable to me. The Cash family has connected with Leslie’s (the mom) sister and this is the first time we really see just how different they are. Zaja asks for some wine and Ben is willing to give her some but Harper and her husband “children don’t drink wine” and he of course brings up other countries but “it’s not right”. One of Harper’s sons is playing a video game at the table, she tells him to put it away and he responds with an attitude and doesn’t do it right away, whereas Ben’s children actually does what he says and he doesn’t raise his voice to them. Harper also gets emotional when one of her sons asks what happened to a family member and Ben tells him exactly what happened instead of sugar coating it like their dad did. It was a great scene.
Bill of Rights Scene. This is after the dinner scene the next day. Harper brings up about Ben’s kids not being in a public school and he tells them they are smarter without it and to prove his point, he has one of his children explain something that Harper’s kids don’t know but should know.
The Store Scene. It’s cute and funny. That’s all I will say.
The Bonfire Scene. Again, without spoiling, there is a scene at the end, where the family pretty much as a bonfire, it’s during the day, so the look is beautiful, the way the sun and sky is captured. Just wow. Plus, with the song that Kielyr sings… it was beautiful. If you watched the Oscars, the scene they chose to show for Viggo Mortensen’s clip was from this scene.
The Grandfather. Now, I totally understand where he was coming from but oh my goodness… he was so annoying and disrespectful. Yes, Ben’s ways of raising his kids was extreme but to do what he did, I thought that was rude and it really didn’t let me like the character.
Weird/Not For Everyone. This is one of those films that isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s weird, the characters are strange, the ways of the main family is weird… it’s weird. That might turn a lot of people off.
The Ending. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it seems like the ending was a let down. The entire time the family has this way of doing things, then stuff starts to happen, the father fights against this, most of the kids fight against this but then the end happens and while it’s sweet, I thought it was a cop out.
Overall, I really liked Captain Fantastic, I thought it was a beautifully shot movie. The music added a lot to the film, the main family was kooky but I quite enjoyed spending the time with them we did, the oldest son especially being a standout. This is a character study like film that focuses heavily on the family, especially the dad and I think the questions this movie puts out there are important ones. However, I do think the movie is strange and tries maybe a bit too hard to be strange and weird, which may turn a lot of people off. I also think the ending was a bit of a let down.
Rating: 3.85 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen Captain Fantastic, if so what did you think about it? Is it a film you’d think you’d be interested in? Let me know in the comments below!
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