Film Review: Captain Fantastic


Starring: Viggo Mortenson (Ben); George MacKay (Bo); Samantha Isler (Kielyr); Annalise Basso (Vespyr); Nicholas Hamilton (Reilan); Shree Cooks (Zaja); Charlie Shotwell (Nai)

Director: Matt Ross

How should man live?

In Captain Fantastic, Ben (Mortenson) lives with his six children in the woods of the Pacific North-West. When news comes from the outside world that his wife, Leslie, has died, Ben and the children must leave the forest for the “real world.”

Captain Fantastic is a funny and revealing commentary on American society and culture through the story of a family. Ben and Leslie left capitalist society to raise their children in the state of nature. Their kids hunt game, analyze Russian literature and celebrate Noam Chomsky Day instead of Christmas.

But the kids have no experience of life beyond their survival skills and home schooling. They struggle to find the way to their dreams, like Bo (MacKay), who wants to attend Harvard and Princeton, a betrayal of his father’s anti-institutional principles. Ben too must battle with his own principles and conscience when he meets estranged family members, particularly Lesley’s parents. Mortenson’s performance brings out Ben’s intensity and vulnerability all at once in these encounters.

Can man live authentically in modern society? Through an engaging and affecting story, Captain Fantastic reminds us that even the the freest of men have their chains.












How should man live? Ben (Mortenson) lives with his his six children off the grid in the forests of Oregon. They hunt game, bathe in waterfalls and subject themselves to rigorous physical and intellectual discipline. Yet when news comes from that other world of Walmart and McDonalds that Ben’s wife and mother has died, the children urge Ben to leave their compound in the mountains to attend the mother’s funeral.

What ensues is a comic, heartfelt and often eye opening film on American culture, raising children and how to be real. When they first encounter a highway patrol officer for a broken tail-light, Ben and the children improvise their roles as home-schooled Bible children who sing the officer away with hymns of Christ and salvation.When they first have dinner at a table with Ben’s sister, the children wonder whether their aunt killed the chicken herself and the almost macabre moments at the dinner table where the cousins receive varying accounts from their parents and Ben on how their aunt died. .

Ben’s children can analyze Russian literature, recite the American Bill of Rights and celebrate Noam Chomsky day,  but they have never kissed a girl, had a Christmas dinner. To them Coca Cola is poisoned water and the American landscape is haunted by Calvin Coolidge’s adage, “the only business of America is business.”

The first meeting between Ben, his children and Ben’s sister and her family hilariously puts both American society’s effect on children into perspective, but also questions what is the real world. Has Ben prepared his children for that world? Is his dream their dream too? The younger son, Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton) tastes video games, and wants to stay with the grandfather. The eldest son, Bo (George MacKay) confesses to his father his dreams of going to Harvard and Princeton. Ben has armed his kids with knowledge, good health and character, but as the film unfolds, experience is the greater knowledge denied.

In the end, the tension is what led Ben’s wife to her illness. The emotional highpoint is when Ben turns his RV away from the cemetary entrance on his children’s urging that he will be arrested. Ben is forced to choose between principal and sanity. Ben himself stands accused by his father-in-law (Frank Langella) and his youngest son, but in the end admits that it was a beautiful mistake. It never helped the mother and it alienated the children from the rest of the world around them. Ben is brilliantly portrayed by Viggo Mortenson, bringing together both the intensity and vulnerability of the father, the man who has lost his wife and now questions what life he must make for his children.

The film has its moments of sentimentality and sappiness – like rescuing the mum’s corpse from her grave for cremation and trying to save the younger son from his grandfather’s house. But it asks us: what is freedom? what is the real world? Like Rousseau said, man is everywhere in chains and nowhere is he free.

Basically funny, good performances


k – marts – macondalnds – coolidge – the business of america is business

literary analysis of liolita


freaks out officer by singing christian rhymes


noam chmsky day


they’re children


8 year old blil of rights


religion is dangerous fairy tales


can’t go to funerals – turns RV around – dramatic point


fight with dad re college – knowledge as experience, not book-learning – what is the real world? are they preepared?


letter – we are defined by our actions, not our words


take care of the chidlren – nothing to worry about


  • a beautifu lm istakes – to liv ein woods

refill the grave – keep the


a warm, af fecting poetic, funny tale of family, love, renewal and hope – commentary on american life – alternatives – what is afe? what is the real world? authentic/? real? man is everywhere in chains – well – performed all around – good – 89%


fascinsts – famly – freedom

  • fascists – book learning + it is america all that bad/





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