Captain Fantastic

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                Before I write a review of a soundtrack, I do a little research on the film or television series to get an idea as to whether the music fulfilled the challenge of enhancing the visuals and the emotions of the project.  So, when I received the musical score and soundtrack of Captain Fantastic, I did the usual research.  I found the story to be rather intriguing and decided I would like to see the movie.

                When Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife, Leslie (Trin Miller), became disillusioned with capitalism and what it was doing to life in America, they decided to go off the grid.  Taking their six children, the couple head off to the Washington wilderness, living off the land and teaching their children survivalist skills, their political views, philosophy, history and more.  They are taught to become self-reliant without the use of technology.

                Unfortunately, Leslie suffers from bipolar disorder, causing her to go through emotional highs and lows.  It is during one particularly low period that Ben realizes his wife needs professional help and contacts Leslieís parents.  While in the hospital, Leslie commits suicide.  Her father, Jack (Frank Langella), decides to hold a traditional funeral and burial, despite his daughterís wish to be cremated.  Jack forbids Ben to attend the funeral, but Ben decides he and his children will attend anyway, if only to rescue his wifeís remains from her fatherís traditionalist ways.

                As they make their way to the funeral, some of the Cash children realize that there are things about society they have been missing out on.  Eldest son Bodevan (George MacKay) is hiding a secret from his father Ė he, with the help of Leslie, has applied to a number of Ivy League schools and been accepted to all of them.  He is bothered by this secret, but even more so by his social ineptitude when it comes to dealing with women.  With all that he has been taught, he realizes he doesnít know much about the world outside the forest he has been living in.  Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton) is downright angry at his father, blaming him for his motherís suicide.  After seeing all of the creature comforts he has been missing out on in ďthe world,Ē he rebels against Ben, choosing to live with his grandparents.

                When the Cash familyís mission to free Rellian from the grandparents ends with Vespyr (Annalise Basso) suffering a serious injury, Ben starts to rethink his method of teaching.  Could it be that he has been wrong all this time?  Would his wife still be alive had he not taken them all out into the wilderness?  Is Jack right?  Would the children be better off with Leslieís parents?  Believing this is possible, Ben decides to leave his kids in the grandparentsí willing and capable hands, but his children have other ideas Ė they want to rescue their mother from the burial she never wanted.

                Captain Fantastic has quite the thought-provoking premise.  In homeschooling their children in the wilderness, Ben and Leslie have made their children self-reliant.  If something were to happen, they could be confident in the knowledge that the Cash children could survive off the land.  But Ben and Leslie taught them more than just survivalist skills.  The children are fluent in different languages, challenge themselves by reading classics as well as philosophic and political works.  They are well-versed in the history of the United States and other countries.  They are, perhaps, better educated than the children attending more traditional schools. 

                That being said, there are drawbacks to homeschooling in the wilderness.  The children are deficient when it comes to the world of technology.  Having nobody else to talk with other than their fellow family members, they are socially inept.  All they have learned about society has been taught by their parents and books.  Thus, with all of their superior education, the Cash children still have a great deal of learning to do. 

                So, to homeschool or not to homeschool?  I believe the answer to this question is a blending of both, ensuring that education on all scales are covered.  The way things stand right now, children attending classes in traditional schools do not attain life experiences.  They have no idea how to survive should something happen to the world as we know it.  Traditional schools donít teach hunting, foraging, or any like survival skills.  In fact, traditional schools nowadays teach to a specific curriculum, leaving out much of the history, philosophy and other cultural learning we received as children.  But, technology is highly stressed and social skills are gained while interacting with others.  Of course, bullying doesnít exactly happen in the wilderness.  Thus, a mix of the two would make for the more well-rounded student.

                As for the acting, there are some amazing performances here.  Viggo Mortensen is incredible in this film.  He is great in most dramatic roles I have seen him as he really immerses himself in the roles, making the emotions and anguish he expresses feel real.  Benís grief at losing the love of his life and the guilt and helplessness he feels about the situation as a while really shows through thanks to Mortensenís performance.  Frank Langella is commendable as the angry and grieving Jack, acknowledging that the Cash children are healthy and well-educated, but still loathing Benís methods and blaming him for Leslieís death.  Terrific performances are also given by the young men and women portraying the Cash children: George MacKay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Crooks and Charlie Shotwell.

                The music created by Alex Somers works perfectly to enhance the drama and emotional moments within the film.  The songs are prefect now that I see them in the context for which they were selected.  And that cinematography Ė the angles and shots of America at its finest are amazing.  I loved the views of the wilderness, the open road, the skies and the rest of the scenery.  Truly beautiful.

                The emotions are palpable in Captain Fantastic and you will definitely need tissues handy to get you through this film, but it isnít all drama and tears.  There are some pretty funny moments in this film, courtesy of the Cash kids.  Captain Fantastic is a well-rounded film providing excellent performances, a beautiful view and a though-provoking plot.  A definite must see.


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