CAPTAIN FANTASTIC (2016) is a drama about a reclusive, left-wing anarchist family that lives off the grid in the wilderness of Washington State. When Lesley Cash, the mother, dies, Ben, the father (Viggo Mortensen), takes his six children on a road trip to the funeral, where they hope to honor her last wishes in opposition to her father, Jack (Frank Langella). The film is interesting throughout if a bumpy ride.
This is what might have been if the hero of MOSQUITO COAST had been a left winger. He raises his children to be critical thinkers, educates them far beyond their years, and teaches them to live without reliance on modern technology. They celebrate Noam Chomsky Day instead of Christmas. They live according to a strong philosophy and seem the better for it, but when they road trip into modern America, two of the kids begin to question their father and his methods, one believing that their lifestyle comes at a cost, which is inability to function socially in the real world. When Ben begins to question himself, it begs whether he can preserve his approach to life while compromising.
Overall, the film is pretty entertaining. Ben’s philosophy is great, challenging, and uncompromising without being preachy or overly belligerent. The acting is terrific across the board, particularly from Mortensen, though the child actors all pull their weight, and the side part adult actors are all recognizable, solid character actors. The moral of the story–live life on your own terms, but learn to give to get along–is good, though not quite strong enough to pull the film to a really satisfying finish, which is sweet but a bit weak.
Overall, I loved elements of the film, and I liked the whole. Usually, supposedly liberal Hollywood serves up cranky, belligerent but endearing right wingers but not left wingers on screen, so the film earned props from me for that alone. Noam Chomsky Day sounds good to me.