Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Captain Fantastic opens with a scene of father, Ben Cash, and his brood of six exceptional children hunting in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. They are dressed in animal skins, covered in mud for camouflage, and hunting with a bow and arrow.
This family lives off the grid in isolation and while it is apparent they all have survivalist skills, they are also very well educated by any standard. One of the girls who doesn't look to be older than 16 is learning college level physics and the youngest of the group can hold his own in philosophical discourse better than the average adult.
Ben also trains his children, all of them from the eldest to the youngest, boys and girls, in physical activity. We see them run up a mountain as regular practice, rock climb on lead, and practice hand-to-hand combat.
My favorite scene is when one of the girls describes the book she is reading, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, as "interesting" when asked by her father. He responds by saying, "'Interesting' is a non-word."
As someone who uses this word quite a lot to express my thoughts and feelings about something, I greatly appreciated this.
There is a dilution of life when folks use this word, along with "nice" or "I'm good", all non-words, in my opinion. And all words I am guilty of using often.
As an aside, this is one of my ulterior motives for writing this review, to express my opinion of this movie other than, "It was an interesting movie."
Watching these scenes unfold, I felt a yearning for this way of life: In harmony with nature, while also embracing science, philosophy, art, and physical well-being.
What would life be like if we learned how to think for ourselves with the ability to live off the land and study advanced sciences? What kind of people would we be? What kind of culture would we create?
When the Cash family leave their home due to an emergency situation, their way of life clashes with modernity, as one might expect.
It made me cringe and feel sympathetic towards their circumstance because suddenly in this new setting they, with their beautiful and pure minds, are considered the "freaks" and weirdos. They look out of place in the supermarket and driving down the freeway.
They don't eat sugary snacks or burgers and fries, are shocked by violent and explosive video games, prefer sleeping under the stars, and rather than celebrate Christmas, celebrate a different made-up holiday, Noam Chomsky Day. Who really is the freak here?
I guess, in the end, it's not really determined. An upheaval in the story has Ben re-evaluate his lifestyle and the type of education he's provided for his family. He is criticized for his kids lacking "real world" skills.
What I get from this tale is you cannot raise a family incongruous to the society at large if there is ever any possibility of future integration. In this case, we see a compromise occur, having a foot in both worlds.
I see this theme everywhere. Your feet planted firmly on the ground, your head in the heavens. Balance. Walking the middle path.
Personally, I'm at a point in my life where I am very disillusioned with modern life. The way that food is sold, looking pretty, tasting great, but lacking nutrients, TV and entertainment that imprint specific messages in our brains, and consumer culture that lays to waste our true talents. It is poison. And yet, I also understand the desire to belong. To not be considered a "freak" or "weirdo" living off the grid somewhere.
I wish this type of living could be the larger culture of the society, rather than the exception. But perhaps then, it too may devolve into its lesser nature. I don't know what the answer is.
Today, I am 30 years old with no family of my own and, as I consider how I would want to raise my own future family, I ponder these questions. What is the "real world" anyway? What type of world do I want for my family?
The movie came at the right time for me. The execution was great and I loved the characters. I fell in love with the family.
As for originality of the plot, it's a story that has been told and the ending was trite so I docked my rating as it added nothing new to this question.