There’s no one “right” way to raise a family, but as Captain Fantastic shows, excelling in some areas doesn’t always mean children will get everything they need. It’s a lesson that’s obvious early on in Captain Fantastic, which follows Ben (Viggo Mortensen) as he raises his six children in nature somewhere in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. When his wife kills herself while being treated for her bipolar disorder, Ben agrees to take the family to her funeral, against the wishes of her parents.
Watching the dynamics of this family is utterly fascinating. Ben and his wife have raised their six children as well-educated, physically active and healthy individuals, and in many ways, they’re great kids. But as they interact with the broader world, in some cases for the first time, it’s clear that the lack of a broader connection to the world has stunted these kids in various ways. For all of the learning they’ve done in the woods, there are plenty of things humans can’t learn without connecting to others outside of our families. And while Ben is in many ways a good father, it’s also clear that his decisions in raising his children to date have been short-sighted at times, in spite of the moral superiority he appears to feel.
Captain Fantastic is a compelling film, featuring a tremendous performance from Mortensen and filled with diversely memorable performances from the children in the cast. It’s engaging and provocative, with some intriguing twists, and it’s well worth watching.