Many movies cause me to reminisce about the good old days when my daughter was growing up, and Captain Fantastic does just that. My daughter knew there was no Santa Clause and no Easter Bunny, and she promised not to tell the other kids who believed; and she never did to my knowledge. I read to her daily, but never fairy tales because I do not care for the lessons they teach children about gender roles and life in general. She never had a baby doll because a baby is not a toy; neither is it something to romanticize, fantasize about or make light of. In my opinion babies are serious business. She had one wall in our bedroom that was for her artistic expression and she was allowed to write/draw on it whenever she wanted without reprimand. We would paint over it when she got ready to start over. She was able to watch most shows with adult content, as I answered every question she asked to the best of my ability as honestly as I could. She was allowed to set her own bedtime, because I knew she had enough sense to know she needed enough sleep to function the following day at school. She never was forced to eat anything she did not like or want. I disciplined her physically twice; once when she hit her paternal grandmother at about 18 months she got a hand swat, and again at age 2 when she stepped off the curb into the street and earned a swat on the bottom. Neither of those offenses was repeated. She was allowed to travel alone on public transportation from the Bronx to Manhattan and back at age 11. She went to sleepaway camp in Vermont in the summer shortly thereafter, and began travelling internationally shortly after that.
I say all of this to say, I am certain that the way I raised my daughter was looked at as “unconventional” by some (most notably, my mother). When I was handed my daughter in the hospital after giving birth, I thought to myself, “Now what the hell am I going to do with this little person?” And then it came to me… “I am going to try to raise her to be the sort of person I would be proud to know even if I wasn’t related to her.” I also tried to raise my daughter so that if anything happened to me she would be able to navigate the world on her own, confidently and competently. When she turned 16 I told her, “That’s all I know!” And I meant it. As time goes on I may think of a nugget of wisdom here or there that I missed. But my statement at the time was pretty accurate. I had exhausted the knowledge I had to pass on to her and it was time for her to go out into the world, discover her own truths and live her own life. Parents do the best they can with what they know at the time. That’s all each of us can do. But no matter what parenting style one chooses, there is always room for improvement, a time to hold tight, and a time to let go.
Starring Vigo Mortinsen, Captain Fantastic is a movie about a father of six who is losing his wife while the question looms, “How will he care for these children when she is gone?” He and his wife have raised the children to be philosophical survivalists, of sorts, in the Washington State area. These children can grow, hunt, catch, skin and cook their own food. They are kept physically fit with a rigorous daily health and fitness regimen. They have been trained in self-defense, weaponry and hand-to-hand combat. They are open minded, conscious and brilliant, having been home schooled by two obviously brilliant parents who have taught them to articulate well and think for themselves. Oh, and the children are socially dysfunctional (some more than others, but overall, they all are) because this life is the only way of life they have been exposed to and their immediate family are the only people they have known for their entire existence. They range in age from approximately 6 to 18 and have never been to school. So, maybe it is time for a change to this “style” of parenting. But as you know, change can be slow and painful.
Captain Fantastic is here to teach parents that as hard as one may try, one cannot be all things at all times to and for one’s children. One can attempt to shelter one’s children from “the real world” for some time, but eventually, in the natural order of things, children are going to have to go out amongst others and live their own lives. Ideally, this is something for which parents provide some sort of preparation. But sometimes we fail.
Vigo Mortinsen is one of the most underrated actors who can always be counted on to deliver a solid performance and every member of the supporting cast does a fine job.
My main problem with this movie is that in the last half hour the family gets a little too unconventional. The story goes from being a reasonable depiction of this isolated family to an unbelievable exaggeration. Understandably this family is “different,” so they may not consider some of their behavior to be odd. But I think if you asked most people, they would tell you that one particular act is odd. By any measure. Then there is some Partridge Family style singing which made this family feel even stranger than they already seemed to be, that I didn’t particularly care for; but maybe that is just me.
It is a movie about a family, but it is not a “family friendly” movie as there is a brutal, and somewhat graphic opening scene. But it is the set up to demonstrate how these children are being raised on a piece of land, providing for themselves and living off of that land. Then – spoiler alert, but this time it must be done – there is the full frontal nudity of Vigo Mortinsen, which depending on what you like, you might not hate… I didn’t mind the nudity at all, but it just becomes a reason people will not want to allow their children to see the movie, or some people will not want to see it themselves. That’s a shame, because the movie can almost be described as “cute” otherwise, and it definitely has some educational value about judgment, parenting styles, coming of age and the parent/child relationship. Without the graphic nature of these two scenes, the movie would not merit an R rating. I understand why the scenes were included, but I don’t believe the quality of the movie would have been sacrificed had the scenes been less graphic.
Playing On Demand and streaming on Amazon, Captain Fantastic earned 7.5 out of 10 bloops. It is a good movie worth seeing that offers insight into the benefits and drawbacks of home schooling and contained family units. It also offers a terrific representation of how home school can benefit some children and how our conventional education is failing others.
1 = worst ever, avoid at all cost
2 = very bad, forget about it!
3 = poor movie, not recommended
4 = not good, even for free – NO!
5 = so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6 = not bad, could have been better
7 = good movie, worth seeing
8 = great movie, don’t miss it!
9 = excellent movie, a must see!
10 = a masterpiece, go see it now!