Captain Fantastic (film)
Captain Fantastic is a 2016 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Matt Ross and starring Viggo Mortensen, Frank Langella, Kathryn Hahn, and Steve Zahn. The story centers on a family that is forced by circumstances to reintegrate into society after living in isolation for a decade.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Matt Ross|
|Written by||Matt Ross|
|Music by||Alex Somers|
|Edited by||Joseph Krings|
|Box office||$22.8 million|
The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2016. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. It was theatrically released on July 8, 2016 by Bleecker Street. It was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the top ten independent films of 2016 and Mortensen was nominated for the Golden Globe, the BAFTA Award, and the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Ben Cash and his wife Leslie and their six children live in the Washington wilderness. Ben and Leslie are former left wing anarchist activists disillusioned with capitalism and American life, and chose to instill survivalist skills, left wing politics, and philosophy in their children – educating them to think critically, training them to be self-reliant, physically fit and athletic, guiding them without technology, demonstrating the beauty of coexisting with nature and celebrating Noam Chomsky's birthday instead of Christmas.
Leslie is hospitalized for bipolar disorder and eventually dies by suicide. Ben learns that Leslie's father, Jack, plans to hold a traditional funeral and burial, even though Leslie wished to be cremated. They argue over the phone and Jack threatens to have Ben arrested if he attends the funeral. He initially decides not to go and prevents his children from doing so, but then changes his mind, leading his children on a road trip into life outside the wilderness.
The family briefly stays at his sister Harper's house. She and her husband try to convince Ben that his children should attend school to receive a conventional education; Ben shows that his children are better educated than Harper's own children. Ben arrives at Leslie's funeral with his children and reads her will, which instructs her family to cremate her and flush her ashes down the toilet. In response, Jack has Ben forcibly removed.
Ben's children also start doubting their father and his parenting skills. His son Rellian accuses Ben of failing to treat Leslie's mental health. His son Bodevan accuses his father of failing to equip them for the real world by setting them up for a rude awakening when they grow up and shows him college acceptance letters from Ivy League schools for which Leslie had helped him apply. Rellian wants to live with his grandparents, who want to take custody of him. When Ben's daughter Vespyr tries to climb into a window to "free" Rellian from his grandparents, she falls from the roof and narrowly avoids breaking her neck. Ben, shocked and guilty, allows Jack to take his children. Although they have bonded with their grandparents, the children decide to follow Ben again when he departs.
The children honor Leslie's wish and convince Ben to help them, exhuming her corpse, burning it in a self-made pyre and flushing her ashes down an airport toilet. Bodevan then leaves the family to travel through Namibia, while the rest settle on a farm. The final scene shows the family around the kitchen table with their father, waiting for the school bus to arrive.
- Viggo Mortensen as Ben Cash
- Frank Langella as Jack Bertrang
- Kathryn Hahn as Harper Cash
- Steve Zahn as Dave
- George MacKay as Bodevan "Bo" Cash
- Samantha Isler as Kielyr Cash
- Annalise Basso as Vespyr Cash
- Nicholas Hamilton as Rellian Cash
- Shree Crooks as Zaja Cash
- Charlie Shotwell as Nai Cash
- Trin Miller as Leslie Abigail Cash
- Elijah Stevenson as Justin
- Teddy Van Ee as Jackson
- Erin Moriarty as Claire McCune
- Missi Pyle as Ellen McCune
- Ann Dowd as Abigail Bertrang
The idea of the movie started for Matt Ross as he began questioning the choices he and his wife were making as parents. From there he wondered what would happen if he were "completely present" in his children's lives, while noting that modern technology had made that difficult. In making the film Ross also took autobiographical bits from his own life, notably being raised in what he terms as "alternative-living communities" growing up.
Viggo Mortensen was cast in February 2014. That June, it was announced that George MacKay, Annalise Basso, Samantha Isler, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Crooks and newcomer Charlie Shotwell had also been cast. Much of the rest of the cast joined that July and August.
In July 2014, eOne Entertainment acquired international distribution rights to the film. In August 2014, it was announced that Bleecker Street would distribute the film in the United States. The film had its world premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2016. The film was released on July 8, 2016. The film was aired in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, with Matt Ross winning the Best Director prize.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 82% based on 210 reviews, with an average rating of 7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Captain Fantastic's thought-provoking themes—and an absorbing starring turn from Viggo Mortensen—add up to an above-average family drama with unexpected twists." On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 72 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". It received a ten-minute standing ovation at Cannes.
Alonso Duralde of TheWrap gave the film a positive review, saying "The movie really belongs to Mortensen, who allows Ben to be exasperating, arrogant and impatient but also warm, loving and caring. He's a tough but adoring father, a grieving widower and a passionate defender of his wife's final wishes, and Mortensen plays all these notes and more with subtlety and grace". Peter Debruge of Variety gave the film a positive review, saying "Boasting half a dozen impressive youth performances alongside a leading role that takes full advantage of Mortensen's own sensitive, back-to-nature spirit, Captain Fantastic easily ranks among the most polished and relatable of this year's Sundance offerings."
In a negative review from The Guardian Peter Bradshaw writes "There's a meaty whiff of phoney-baloney in this fatuous and tiresome movie, replete with forced emotional crises and wrong notes, topped off with an excruciatingly unearned, sentimental ending. It's a low-cal version of Peter Weir's 1986 movie The Mosquito Coast, starring someone who is essentially a cross between Charles Manson and Captain von Trapp."
Sheila O'Malley of RogerEbert.com believes "It's the attitude of the film that's the problem" and it "could have used a lot more skepticism". While praising the cast, she writes that the film "treats the situation (and Ben) so uncritically and so sympathetically that there is a total disconnect between what is actually onscreen and what Ross thinks is onscreen."
|List of awards and nominations|
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref.|
|AARP Annual Movies for Grownups Awards||February 6, 2017||Best Actor||Viggo Mortensen||Nominated|||
|Academy Awards||February 26, 2017||Best Actor||Viggo Mortensen||Nominated|||
|British Academy Film Awards||February 12, 2017||Best Actor in a Leading Role||Viggo Mortensen||Nominated|||
|Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival||July 31, 2016||Save Energy, Save Earth Film Award||Captain Fantastic||Won|
|Cannes Film Festival||May 22, 2016||Un Certain Regard - Prize for Best Director||Matt Ross||Won|||
|Prix Un Certain Regard||Captain Fantastic||Nominated|
|Costume Designers Guild||February 21, 2017||Excellence in Contemporary Film||Courtney Hoffman||Nominated|||
|Critics' Choice Awards||December 11, 2016||Best Actor in a Comedy||Viggo Mortensen||Nominated|||
|Deauville American Film Festival||September 11, 2016||Audience Award||Captain Fantastic||Won|
|Jury Prize||Captain Fantastic||Won|
|Grand Prix||Captain Fantastic||Nominated|
|Dorian Awards||January 26, 2017||Unsung Film of the Year||Captain Fantastic||Nominated|||
|Evening Standard British Film Awards||December 8, 2016||Best Supporting Actor||George MacKay||Nominated|||
|Florida Film Critics Circle||December 23, 2016||Best Actor||Viggo Mortensen||Nominated|||
|Golden Globe Awards||January 8, 2017||Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama||Viggo Mortensen||Nominated|||
|Houston Film Critics Society||January 6, 2017||Best Actor||Viggo Mortensen||Nominated|||
|Best Poster||Captain Fantastic||Nominated|
|Independent Spirit Awards||February 25, 2017||Best Male Lead||Viggo Mortensen||Nominated|||
|IndieWire Critics Poll||December 19, 2016||Best Actor||Viggo Mortensen||8th place|||
|Karlovy Vary International Film Festival||July 9, 2016||Audience Award||Captain Fantastic||Won|
|Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild||February 19, 2017||Feature-Length Motion Picture – Contemporary Make-Up||Akemi Hart and Karen McDonald||Nominated|||
|Nantucket Film Festival||June 27, 2016||Audience Award||Captain Fantastic||2nd place|
|National Board of Review||January 4, 2017||Top Ten Independent Film||Captain Fantastic||Won|||
|Online Film Critics Society||January 3, 2017||Best Actor||Viggo Mortensen||Nominated|||
|Rome Film Festival||October 22, 2016||BNL People's Choice Award||Captain Fantastic||Won|
|San Diego Film Critics Society||December 12, 2016||Best Actor||Viggo Mortensen||Runner-up|||
|Satellite Awards||February 19, 2017||Best Film||Captain Fantastic||Nominated|||
|Best Actor||Viggo Mortensen||Won[a]|
|Best Original Screenplay||Matt Ross||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Courtney Hoffman||Nominated|
|Seattle International Film Festival||June 12, 2016||Golden Space Needle Award for Best Film||Captain Fantastic||Won|
|Screen Actors Guild Awards||January 29, 2017||Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role||Viggo Mortensen||Nominated|||
|Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture||The cast of Captain Fantastic||Nominated|
|St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association||December 18, 2016||Best Actor||Viggo Mortensen||Nominated|||
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