I have been waiting to write this review since the day I saw Captain Fantastic. This film is like no other you've ever seen before. Viggo Mortensen (Ben) plays the father of 6 kids who he is raising in the forest of the Pacific Northwest. "Off the grid" to say the least. He is raising them to be physically and intellectually superior and ready for anything that comes their way. He teaches them to be critical thinkers, and one is more knowledgeable than the next. Instead of Christmas, they celebrate Noam Chomsky's birthday, and one of the gifts to one of the children is a hunting knife. These are only examples of what was once called an "alternative lifestyle," and when Ben tells his kids that it's ok to shoplift, we know that he is creating his own rules for life.
When their mom dies, Ben takes them on a road trip where they learn more about people than they could gather from books, and they see the world through the lens of how people not living off the grid see them. When they go to bury their wife and mom, the nuclear family spends time with the mom's sister, brother in law, their kids, and her parents. These people do not approve of the lifestyle Ben and his late wife established. Though I don't often use quotes from a movie to describe it, this revealing quip from the oldest son who wants to go to college despite his father's objections sums up some of the movie nicely: "I know nothing! I know nothing! I am a freak because of you! You made us freaks! And mom knew that! She understood! Unless it comes out of a fucking book, I don't know anything about anything!" So that is the paradox - if you raise erudite critical thinking children who know nothing of the world, have you done your job as a parent?
This movie is quirky and Viggo Mortensen is every bit the highly intellectual hippie. But his emotional side is also vital, and his relationships with his kids make you start to wonder if you should give this kind of parenting a try. I was captivated by the film. The young actors who play the kids are incredible - listening to a little girl recite the first amendment from memory and then discussing the political ramifications of the Bill of Rights is one you won't soon forget.
There is nothing quite like Captain Fantastic, but that's what makes it so worth watching.