First of all, I must say that I’m extremely “taken” with Viggo Mortensen – I think he’s not only handsome, but an interesting person (odd, but interesting). I try to watch all the movies that he makes, since not only is he a wonderful actor, but he makes good movies. Even if I find a movie difficult to watch (The Road and Good come to mind), any movie he makes is definitely fodder for thought.
So, with that in mind, I watched his latest movie, Captain Fantastic, the other night. There is much to think about in this movie. A quick over-view of the plot is that a husband (Ben) and wife (Leslie) decide to raise their children “off-the-grid” and away from all the “bad” influences of the modern world in the middle of the wilderness that is the Pacific Northwest.
Who can argue with this assessment of the modern world? I actually agreed with much of what Ben and Leslie believed. Our food is poisoned; social media is invasive; schools teach to the test, and don’t promote much in the way of critical thinking; the pursuit of money and profit at the expense of people is pervasive. These are all valid issues that should be discussed both individually and in larger venues. So, with this in mind, the family grows their own food, hunts their own meat, learns survival skills and are almost completely independent. Everything goes well, until Leslie’s mental illness makes her ability to cope (and live) frighteningly difficult. Ben seeks help for her from her parents, and she is institutionalized. While there, Leslie commits suicide. The children want to attend the funeral that Leslie expressly did not want to have, and the family commences their exotic journey from the wilderness back into “civilized society”.
However, as with most, if not all, reintroduction’s to “civilization”, they encounter stressful and comic situations. In the first restaurant they go to, the younger children are convinced that the other people are ill due to their lack of physical fitness and weight. When subjected to violent video games which their cousins are playing, the children are aghast, even though they all partake in actual hunting of animals for food. Even though their aunt and uncle allow for violent game-play they refuse to let the cousins hear about the suicide of Leslie, finding no irony that their children routinely “kill” people while playing video games, but are too delicate to hear about mental illness. This juxtaposing occurs throughout the movie, giving us fodder for the brain.
If you haven’t watched this movie, I hope that you do so. If you have watched it, let me know what you think of it in the comments below.