This is all brought to a screeching halt when we discover that Ben’s wife, and the six children’s mother, has passed away – by killing herself after a long struggle with bipolar disorder. This prompts the family, after a struggle and an argument, to load into “Steve”, their bus, and drive cross country to their mother’s funeral. This prompts a variety of life experiences for all the children, often times resulting in some funny sequences “They’re just all so… fat”.
Because conflict is necessary in most movies, Ben is opposed by his father in-law, who posits that Ben is abusing his children by raising them in near isolation. One of my favorite things about this movie is that it doesn’t shy away from the fact that this may be correct, at least in part. The children have obvious social deficits, as shown by oldest boy Bodevan’s (played by George MacKay from How I Live Now) interaction with a young girl he meets while on the road (some flirtation, a kiss, and then a marriage proposal). This goes as far as to show the endangerment to the children’s lives in a third act that begins to lose some of its muster, despite what could be some of the most exciting “action” in the film.
The movie truly belongs to Viggo, whose wild beard and behavior hold center stage. He is allowed to traverse so much in the way of fatherhood and parenting, which as a father to two beautiful boys really struck home. In one moment he can be raw and tough, forcing his children to regurgitate the facts of what they have learned; the next he can be smiling and musical, playing a song that his whole family to participate in. This is all while fighting within himself due to the sadness of losing his wife, and being unsure as to the proper way to raise his kids within his world. The children turn in appropriate performances as well, with even the youngest turning in stunning transformations of feral youth, or encyclopedic information banks.
But I think what is the true highlight of the film is the locations. Frequently shot from above or below, many shots in the film give a panoramic view of the American West, causing me to wonder when I can how onto my own Steve and go on a road trip.
Overall, I enjoyed this film, but there are enough stumbles along the way when it comes to plot and things make it difficult to overcome the cheesiness of the film. Nominated only for a Best Actor (a deserving nomination), I’m going to give Captain Fantastic a “B”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"