Raising children is tough (or so my friends with kids tell me). You want them to become self sufficient, well rounded people, needing you to learn from and guide, while at the same time wanting their own space to grow and figure things out on their own. Now imagine you are a father trying to raise six children on your own while living off the grid in the mountains somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.
Captain Fantastic is a poignant tale of a man, Ben (Viggo Mortensen), trying to do right by his children the only way he knows how, which includes teaching them to hunt and grow their own food, fight, and home schooling them on such basic topics as quantum physics. And no father I know is so frank with his young ones about sex. His bond with his children is strong, but relationships and ideas about what is right change when the family travels to New Mexico to attend the funeral of his recently deceased wife and mother of their children.
The film does a great job of showing the differences between Ben and his family and the “normal” people that inhabit the rest of the world. What better way to show this then when Ben gives his children rather unique gifts for their made up holiday, Noam Chomsky Day. While Ben starts off headstrong in his beliefs, his role as a newly single father start making him perceive the world differently. None of this would be possible without some great performances, and while Viggo is as fantastic as usual, the real standouts are the children. From the physical demands of the roles as well as their interactions with both their father and members of outside world, the children are portrayed with the perfect balance of intelligence and ignorance that one would expect from people growing up as they did. It can be very tough to find quality child actors, so kudos to the producers for being able to find six of them.
The film is both humorous and heartfelt, being served very well by the script by Matt Ross (who also directed). Through a troupe of characters whose lives most likely are quite the opposite of your own, Captain Fantastic makes you think about your own life and how you affect others. And for that, this is a film that will stick with you long after the credits roll.