Captain Fantastic (film)
|Directed by||Matt Ross|
|Written by||Matt Ross|
|Music by||Alex Somers|
|Edited by||Joseph Krings|
|Distributed by||Bleecker Street|
|Box office||$7.7 million|
Captain Fantastic is a 2016 American drama film written and directed byMatt Ross and starring Viggo Mortensen. The story centers on a family who are forced by circumstances to reintegrate into society after living in isolation for a decade.
The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2016. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. It was theatrically released on July 8, 2016, by Bleecker Street.
In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, Ben Cash raises his six children off the grid by himself after his wife was hospitalized for bipolar disorder. Ben and his wife Leslie became disillusioned with capitalism and American life and elected to instill real world life lessons (such as hunting, survival skills and emergency first aid knowledge) as well as strong philosophical understanding into the lives of their six children (who range in ages of between 18 and 7). For many years, Ben and Leslie raised their children together in the forest, until Leslie’s long term mental health issues meant that she reluctantly had to be hospitalized.
Although Ben is shown to be a loving father, he is also shown to be extremely strict in regards to adherence to physical exercise and combat training, while being equally determined that even his youngest children read extensive texts ranging from foreign language to quantum mechanics. The children, for their part, are deeply happy with their lifestyle, with the notable exception of teenage son Rellian (who is shown to be emotionally distant from his father and siblings during family activities).
The children question Ben as to when their mother will be returning from hospital, but Ben is evasive in answering. Ben and eldest child Bodevan make a routine trip into the local town. Bodevan checks his mail box and finds multiple college acceptance letters, although he elects to keep this information private. Ben makes a call to his sister Harper and is informed that Leslie committed suicide the previous night.
Ben breaks the news to his family, who react with stunned shock and grief. Rellian briefly brandishes a knife before angrily stabbing a block of wood. Ben later calls his long estranged Father-in-law Jack in order to discuss Leslie’s long held wish for a cremation funeral. Jack bitterly tells Ben that Leslie will be buried, that he is not welcome at the funeral and will be arrested if he should appear.
Although the children are excited to test out their anti-establishment philosophy in order to honor their mother, Ben refuses to make the multiple day trip for the funeral, out of concern about being arrested. The family takes part in routine rock climbing, during which Rellian breaks his hand. Ben refuses to offer immediate aid and instead coaches Rellian on how to keep climbing.
Seeing how his children are deeply grieving, Ben gathers them on the family bus and has them embark on a road trip with the goal of crashing the funeral.
The family travels across the country and the children receive their first glimpses of city life. Along the way, they brush with an inquisitive police officer and are dragged out of a local diner due to Ben’s disgust with the menu. The family later robs a local supermarket when Ben fakes a heart attack.
Since Ben believes Christmas to be nonsense, he instead treats the family to an early celebration of Noam Chomsky day (a celebration on the date of Chomsky’s birthday). Ben gives the children various weapons as gifts. Rellian expresses vocal frustration about this yearly tradition but angrily backs down due to the rest of the family’s resistance.
The family eventually arrives at Harper’s house and shares a dinner her family. Tensions are raised at the dinner table due to clashing ideas about whether Ben’s children should be sheltered or completely exposed to all of life. Harper eventually leaves in the table in tears after Ben openly discusses Leslie’ ¥)s suicide and long mental health problems.
The following morning, Harper and her husband argue that Ben’s children should be in school to learn real things but Ben counters this argument by demonstrating that her sons lack even basic understanding of what the Bill of Rights are (in stark contrast to his 8-year old daughter, who has encyclopedic knowledge of that subject among many others).
The family continues their travel to a local caravan park during which Bodevan has his first interaction with a teenage girl his own age. Although Bodevan lacks basic understanding of social cues, the two share a kiss, after which Bodevan gleefully proposes to her. This is laughed off and Bodevan is left confused and dejected.
The family arrives at the in progress funeral for Leslie, all wearing deliberately flamboyant outfits. Ben gleefully seizes control of the service and begins a public speech about his wife. He reads aloud from her will, which indicates her wish for a musical celebration funeral followed by her ashes being flushed down a toilet. Jack has Ben forcefully removed.
Outside the church, Jack and his wife meet their grandchildren for the first time and Ben is once again warned to stay away from the burial. Over his children’s reluctance, Ben hysterically attempts to steal Leslie’s coffin but eventually relents after his children talk him out of it.
Later that evening, Rellian opens up to Bodevan and explains that he often overheard his mother arguing with Ben over their lifestyle choice and how Ben refused to change course even after Leslie began having extreme hallucinations and major depression.
Bodevan angrily confronts his father and shows him his college acceptance letters. Although Ben is drunkenly proud of his son, he quickly expresses a deep feeling of betrayal due to Bodevan’s seeming rejection of everything Ben has tried to teach his children. Bodevan counters by bitterly explaining that although he has extensive knowledge of survival and hunting skills and possess extensive philosophy knowledge, he lacks even basic social skills. Their debate is cut short by news that Rellian has fled to Jack’s mansion.
Ben confronts Jack and Rellian but Rellian angrily tells his father that he wishes to live with his grandparents. Jack confronts Ben with Rellian’s news about his broken hand and the weapons the children were recently given (as well as the extensive cuts and bruises the family possess). Having long been annoyed at Ben’s lifestyle which he feels destroyed Leslie’s life, Jack explains that he’ll be seeking sole custody of Ben’s children.
Later on, Ben and the children attempt to “break” Rellian out of “prison”. Ben’s daughter Vespyr skillfully climbs atop Jack’s roof but eventually loses her footing and slips off the two-story roof, violently landing on Jack’s car.
Vespyr is rushed to hospital and although a doctor explains that she’ll suffer no long term disability, he privately shows Ben an x-ray indicating that even a millimeter difference in the injury could have resulted in permanent paralysis.
Seeming to acknowledge the danger he routinely places his children in, Ben has the family stay for a time with Jack. The children get to bond with their grandparents for the first time and there are signs that Ben is starting to create an understanding with Jack. Ben eventually elects to voluntarily leave the children in Jack’s care and departs alone on his empty bus.
Ben finds that the children, led by Rellian, had secretly stowed away on the family bus. Ben expresses shock and Rellian tearfully admits that he doesn’t hate his father, but did blame him for Leslie’s suicide. Ben and Rellian reconcile.
The children excitedly tell Ben that they still wish to honor Leslie’s funeral wishes. Ben expresses hesitancy but is convinced when Rellian happily quotes Noam Chomsky to inspire his father. In the dead of night, the family dig up Leslie’s coffin (leaving the grave refilled to avoid questions later) and travel to a nearby beach. Ben tearfully, but joyfully pays his last respects and the family serenades their mother with a song of “Sweet Child ‘O Mine”.
Leslie’s body is cremated and the family privately and happily honours her wishes by flushing her ashes down a toilet at an airport. After, this, the family sees Bodevan off on a flight so that he may find his place in the outside world.
A period of time later, Ben and the rest of the family are shown to be living in a small cottage on a farm. Although the family still happily adhere to Ben’s education and philosophy of life, the children are also attending a local school. Ben, Rellian and the others are shown to be united in silent contentment.
- Viggo Mortensen as Ben
- George MacKay as Bodevan
- Samantha Isler as Kielyr
- Annalise Basso as Vespyr
- Nicholas Hamilton as Rellian
- Shree Crooks as Zaja
- Charlie Shotwell as Nai
- Kathryn Hahn as Harper
- Trin Miller as Leslie
- Steve Zahn as Dave
- Elijah Stevenson as Justin
- Teddy Van Ee as Jackson
- Erin Moriarty as Claire
- Missi Pyle as Ellen
- Frank Langella as Jack
- Ann Dowd as Abigail