HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Somewhere in the Pacific Northwest lives one of the most perfect homesteading families ever.
The kids are homeschooled, and read at advanced levels for their age, while learning to hunt deer. They successfully grow food, participate in vigorous physical training including running, rock climbing and even knife fighting. They all play instruments (including bag pipes) and they speak four different languages.
The family has no modern amenities, but they’re all modern philosophers. They get along while living in a primitively-appointed, one-room cabin. Even the teenagers listen to their father and gladly obey his rules.
Oh wait, did we say this was the Pacific Northwest? Oops, no, it’s Hollywood.
So while “Captain Fantastic” is one of the few movies that treats homesteader survivalists with respect and dignity, it’s still a fantasy that offers viewers a bit of maddening philosophical conflict to chew on.
Viggo Mortenson (“The Road,” and “Lord of the Rings”) who plays Ben Cash, the family patriarch with deeply conflicting beliefs that don’t fit the modern mold, does a terrific job of conveying the unconditional, if not mildly dictatorial, love for his kids in a convincing fashion.
Interestingly, his character celebrates the anti-war, socialist-libertarian Noam Chomsky while teaching his kids to fight with knives. It’s precisely this dueling philosophical conflict that makes Mortenson’s character so complex. And it’s the rare complex character that makes movies and books worthwhile.
Of course, many viewers who share the homesteader-survivalist mindset may bristle at the idea of a father teaching his kids seemingly contrasting ideals, but they should appreciate much of the movie’s overall message.
Overall, the movie does a terrific job of setting up the ideal homesteader-survivalist family (that doesn’t want to destroy the government, like so many low-brow Hollywood offerings give us), while laying out the real struggle which comes from the clash between the modern world and the only (primitive) life these kids have known.
When Ben’s wife dies, and the family travels to attend the funeral, “Captain Fantastic” exposes the vapid dumbed-down, shallow society we live in.
But while the family adventure is full of well-played examples of society’s degradation, many of the same scenes expose just how dangerously far removed the Cash family is from the “normal” world. And this is exactly where those living in or striving for the homesteader-survivalist lifestyle will want to pay attention.
As one scene depicts, how is the college-aged son supposed to talk to a girl his own age (much less create his own family) if he is denied an opportunity to socialize with people outside of the family paradise?
It’s easy for adults to walk away from the world, but at some point, do children need to be exposed to modern society? Even the Mormons recognize that their children need to complete their transition to adulthood with the opportunity to experience the world as it is.
If the odds of a societal collapse remain as unlikely as most reasonable people believe, what is that next step for the children who grow up on a homestead, removed from the world?
“Captain Fantastic” makes it clear that homesteaders and survivalists must grapple with that question.
Even though viewers of “Captain Fantastic” will be irked by the throw-away insults at religion or capitalism, and one brief gratuitous scene involving male nudity, they should appreciate the layers of questions the movie raises.
Paratus Business News believes the movie is worth seeing, especially for those who dream of living away from the trappings of the plastic, dumbed-down, shallow, consumer-driven world, in favor of a more natural, back-to-basics lifestyle.
“Captain Fantastic” is available on DVD at Amazon and Netflix, and on-demand through Amazon Prime, Apple TV and other locations where movies are available for purchase or streaming.