been to the flicks…

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Things I love / what's getting my attention

…Captain Fantastic cert 15

Hmm. First up to say, is that this wasn’t the film I was expecting.  Yet as soon as I write that, I’m not sure what I was expecting with hindsight.

An odd film in some ways.  I didn’t like, nor empathise with the central character, Ben (on paper I thought I would – played by Viggo Mortensen, what’s not to like?).

A survivalist, living off-grid, Ben is raising his kids to live off the land, hold their own, be independent both mentally and physically, and educating them to an enviable level.  So far so not for everyone, but also slightly enviable – but either way, live and let live eh?

But.  Ideological and in many ways, dangerously reckless and naïve in equal measure, I felt the life he’d foisted on his kids utterly self-absorbed. In my head I continuously screamed at him. Those poor kids will never know how to operate in mainstream society, in the event they ever want to. And that, ladies and gents is fundamentally what the story explores. However, I felt that other than the other extreme form of life (consumerism, grunting superficial, vacuous teens with devices) there was no exploration of a middle ground.

Some was utterly nonsense, with echoes of ‘What we did on our holiday’ – I found that irritating….My friend muttered “they had me until…<no spoiler don’t worry>” on the way out.

Other parts were compelling and moving, and I even laughed a couple of times.  The kids were without exception pretty brilliant, 100% believable and real. I admit to being distracted with the “what have I seen him in?” question in my head about the eldest boy Bo – he’s a Brit actor and really distinctive. And so heartbreakingly believable. And then you have Rellian, surely a young River Phoenix. The eldest girls were breathtakingly (but unconventionally and definitely not blandly) beautiful who added haunting vocals and some damn fine climbing. I’d definitely be on their team; proper warriors.

And yet my overwhelming emotion at the end, as I sorted it all out in my head was “so what?”  Ultimately I think I felt cheated because I still didn’t actually like Ben.  There were glimpses of fun Ben, but on the whole, I found him relentlessly sanctimonious, hypocritical many times, and tirelessly humourless 90% of the time.  It felt oppressive. Mental health was explored and yet…it still felt like it was skimming the surface, to me. I even felt he still didn’t really get it himself, even when clattered over the head with it by his mother-in-law, sympathetically played by Ann Dowd.

I’d secretly expected to be slightly envious of a free-wheeling life where kids can be kids, but the upbringing being forced on this gaggle of children felt suffocating and limiting in equal measure, to me.  No less so than the opposite he was trying to achieve. Anyone who has tagged along on this blog will know that I’m a huge believer in humour and fun as an antidote to the pressures our kids are now under. And Ben really didn’t demonstrate much of the lightness of life despite some laboured attempts to do so.

No doubt, Captain Fantastic is beautifully shot, with brilliant acting and a potentially great story…it ticks so many boxes for me.  The weighty sadness of parts of it stayed with me.   I just wish Captain Fantastic himself wasn’t quite so bloody smug.

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