When worlds collide: Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic
For years, parents have decried the fad du jour that was ruining families and turning children into zombies. Over the years, we’ve had comic books, rock music, and the “boob tube” to blame for the failings of the American family. These days, the internet and food additives are accused, making some parents dream of cutting the cord and planting gardens to grow their own organic food.
What if parents went a huge step further and decided to completely forgo society and modern technology, to raise their children as free spirits in the wilderness? Would their kids’ lives really be better? How would they cope when confronted with the “real” world?
These are the questions writer/director Matt Ross, otherwise known as Gavin Belson from Silicon Valley, seeks to answer in Captain Fantastic, his film about a father who struggles to maintain the ideals he’s taught his children as the family faces tragedy. The story follows Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) and Leslie (Trin Miller), a couple who have decided to raise their children in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. Ben’s parenting style is part cult guru and part military leader. He preaches his isolationist philosophy to the children and engages them in physical exercise as part of their “training.”
The family’s carefully-constructed existence starts to fall apart when Leslie, tormented by untreated bipolar disorder, commits suicide. Despite being banned from his wife’s funeral by his father-in-law, Ben decides to take the kids on a road trip to let them say goodbye and ensure his wife’s last wishes are honored. (She hoped to be cremated and flushed down the toilet.)
Captain Fantastic combines humor with heartbreak in a rather heavy-handed fashion as the children experience the outside world for the first time. As the universe they thought they knew collides with the new and fascinating unknown, they face a choice between the two. While the movie might not make you want to put down your smartphone forever, it could make you rethink the way you see the world.