Some still dream about reconciling with nature with the promise that it will in return shower them generously with its many gifts. The movie Captain Fantastic explores this premise with a point of view that is quite different from previous movies like Tarzan or Robinson Crusoe, in Captain Fantastic the protagonist chooses willingly to go back to nature, and the movie discusses the effect this choice has not only on the protagonist, but also on the modern society when the protagonist is forced to return to it.
The movie follows the story of Ben as he lives with his six children in a forest, we follow his choices that sometimes seem harsh as he demand of his children to practice strict physical regime, as he isolate them from the rest of the human population and modern technology, however he also encourages them to learn different languages, read a variety of books, and play a musical instrument or sing.
The result is that the children enjoy a good health, show multiple talents, and sharp intelligence, still when they are compelled to join modern society and especially the society of their peers, we find them completely lost and they even panic.
I find the director Matt Ross’ decision of telling the story by following Ben is suitable, for he is simply the most interesting character with his many contradictions that reflect his philosophy in life, for example: the contradiction in raising his children to defy all forms of authority except his own which is reverenced.
The second most noteworthy character is the elder son Bo who seems completely submitted to his father’s authority, and he realize -slowly as it may seem- the flaw in this submission, unlike his brother Rellian who repels insistently the system that is being forced upon him.
Unfortunately there is not enough space in the movie to showcase the rest of the characters, so most of them end up looking like accessories for this big family, or stereo typical characters just to emphasize the peculiarity of this family.
But I did love the expressive images of the cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine, like the scene of deer hunting in the beginning of the movie, as the children emerge from the tree leaves, you discover that they have been hiding for quite a while, which reflects their total integration with this environment, and when Bo succeeds in killing the deer, the camera doesn’t hesitate to get close to the face of the prey, as this family doesn’t hesitate to face death as a natural part of life.
The movie rarely uses music, and when it does, it is in a realistic context like someone turning on the radio or the family starts singing and playing music in harmony, which emphasizes the movie’s realistic perspective, that is not wanting for a sense of humor.
The movie adopts an issue that is worthy of discussing, even though it presents its arguments in a very direct way, also some of its attempts in a comic relief or witticism is a bust, as it fails to make us smile or being noted as remarkable, not to mention the movie comes to a conclusion that is satisfying but unexpected from a character as stubborn as Ben.
In the end the movie offers many questions: How far would you go to protect your children from the prevailing system? Is it better to completely integrate with an imperfect society or to denounce it completely and try to create a new one? Is an individual entitled to isolate and reprogram his children thus being able to reshape society in the future? To what extent can one be honest and truthful with his/ her children? How much integration with nature is enough?
The movie tries to entertainingly answer these questions, which makes it despite its many flaws worth watching.