The story follows Noam Chomsky-worshipping neo-communist Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) and his six children, who live a cloistered existence deep in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Here, Cash’s unique parenting style involves schooling his brood in a rigorous regimen of survivalism, fitness and advanced education, including deer slaughter, Marxist theory and rock climbing.
However, their hippy dream is thrown into disarray when they learn that their mother – hitherto incarcerated in a mental institution – has killed herself. Despite threats from his deceased wife’s father that he will be thrown in prison if he attends the funeral, our protagonist and his family board ‘Steve’ – their bus – and set off on a “mission” to fulfil their mothers last will and testament.
If you think a quirky family, a road trip across America in a bus and tested parental values sound familiar, those aren’t the only narrative similarities to 2006’s Sundance hit Little Miss Sunshine, but Captain Fantastic finds its own route through the rocky terrain of dysfunctional familial relations – though not quite as smoothly as its predecessor.
Ruggedly handsome, flamboyant and self-assured, Mortensen is like a poster boy for ‘off-grid’ living, bringing humour and charm to a role that could easily have come across as gratingly sanctimonious. Likewise, the child actor’s performances are almost as precocious as the characters they portray – disarmingly naïve even as they recite the Bill of Rights or their father’s anti-capitalist doctrine verbatim.
While that might not sound like a recipe for laughs, there are some finely-pitched moments of culture clash comedy when the Cash clan’s more eccentric beliefs and behaviours rub up against the more conventional views of those they encounter. By the time we reach the third act, the film’s narrative choices start to lack the same sense of direction and conviction, but it’s all so gloriously ludicrous you can’t help but stay on board.
Whether you agree with Cash’s extreme libertarian parenting style or not, the sun dappled pine, Boho-chic outfits and are so seductively shot you may find yourself wanting to up sticks and move into a yurt in the woods.
With an engaging cast of young and old performers alike, this bohemian family road trip features enough humour, joie de vivre and heart to win over cynics and make up for any narrative deficiencies.
|What||Captain Fantastic film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
09 Sep 16 – 09 Nov 16, Times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more details|