Captain Fantastic: A Mission

I knew Matt Ross from his Silicon Valley‘s appearance as a tech tycoon, but I’m excited to see this director side of Ross. Captain Fantastic is a fascinating well-crafted road movie with a simple yet thrilling plot.

The film starts with a strong sequence which hits the audience real quick. A bunch of primitive people in the jungle, hunting a deer with bare hands. We are facing a family, they are living in the woods. The father, Ben, is the protector and the leader. Even though throughout the film, kids are arguing with him, they don’t disobey him. He teaches his kids, takes care of them and is honest with them. Ben’s character is shaped faster than the rest of the group as he is more open and expressive. His honesty is a key element to understanding his influence and decisions.

[Spoilers] The death of the mother is the starting point of a journey which puts this strange family out in the normal community. Ben is aware of the difficulties when he decides to drive toward the funeral. He clearly puts it in words:

We can’t go to mommy’s funeral. We have to do what we’re told. Some fights, you can’t win. The powerful control the lives of the powerless. That’s the way the world works. It’s unjust and it’s unfair. But that’s just too damn bad. We have to shut up and accept it.

The family has a habit, to create a mission out of everything but this mission, to rescue their mom from being buried like a Christian (despite that she was practicing Buddhism), becomes the film’s main objective. A mission that keeps this family together regardless of their conflicts and mindset issues.

Actor Charlie Shotwell and Director Matt Ross – Captain Fantastic (2016) / Photo credit: Wilson Webb / Bleecker Street

The movie masterfully leads the audience to question Ben’s ideology and approach to his children’s education. It starts in the “police pull over” scene and then continues with the confrontation of Ben and Harper’s families. The two methods of raising children contrasts clearly and Ben manages to win these battles but the real problem is ahead. The first hit is when Bodevan tells his father that he knows nothing outside a book and he has turned into a weirdo because of him. But the moment when Vespyr falls down the roof is when the whole belief system of Ben’s falls apart. He understands that his method has not been successful, not at least in protecting his kids. That is the definitive moment when Ben decides to leave them to their grandparents.

The mission here strikes again and force the kids to follow their father. They want to fulfill their mother’s so they unite. After they dig her corpse out and cremate her, they are once again a family and this time they choose to be a little more normal than before in a way that everyone is happy. The final breath of Ben in the final shot is all we need to know about this family’s future.

Captain Fantastic is an adventurous cinematic experience full of love, joy, and sadness. It represents life in its purest way using its powerful script and simple direction. Ross selected a very effective narration for his movie in which the story comes first and nothing but that matters. Viggo Mortensen beside the rest of the young cast performed incredibly in their rather difficult roles. They managed to represent a real family at its most believable.

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