Movie Description from an Online Source
Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen), his wife Leslie and their six children live deep in the wilderness of Washington state. Isolated from society, Ben and Leslie devote their existence to raising their kids — educating them to think critically, training them to be physically fit and athletic, guiding them in the wild without technology and demonstrating the beauty of co-existing with nature. When Leslie dies suddenly, Ben must take his sheltered offspring into the outside world for the first time.
I didn’t know what to expect when I watched the film Captain Fantastic (2016). I’d never heard of it, and I hadn’t seen the trailer. All I knew was the snippet given on Netflix, which stated a family living off-grid reconsiders their disconnection from society after an accident.
Or something like that. Given I plan to live off-grid one day, the film piqued my interest.
In the opening scenes, a father and his six children are exercising, hunting, training (for what, I never really found out unless it was the imagined attack if they happened upon a member of society) and living the life of a family who had abandoned society and all its luxuries.
What struck me first were two questions: Where was the mother? Why is Ben Cash (ironic last name given his stance on capitalism) pushing his children to the extreme?
Given the danger he put them in, I assumed rather early that one of the children would be seriously injured or killed, and that would be the factor to make him rethink his choices in life.
Not so. While one of the boys suffers an injury, it’s not life-threatening or serious, and Ben forces him to carry on with the training session.
The off-grid life style presented in the movie is misleading. The family is not only off-grid. They are far from society, cut off from everything. One can be off the power grid and still have neighbours, still have family and friends who live nearby and who visit. They can still have access to the good stuff in society if they choose.
These parents didn’t just go off-grid. They might as well have been on Gilligan’s Island without Professor’s radio. The children were subjected to harsh lessons, both physically and intellectually. I’m not saying children shouldn’t be challenged, but the ones presented in this film were to the extreme. Ben was running more of an occult than a family.
I sympathized and feared for the kids and was relieved they were finally ‘saved’ by their mother’s parents. Ben was a horrible father, one who had his own mission in life and didn’t consider the thoughts and ideas of others.
While the description for the film found online stated, the parents were “educating them (the kids) to think critically,” the opposite was true. The kids were not critical thinkers. They were brainwashed and spouted off exactly what their father indoctrinated them with from the many rants over their lifetime right down to the lude remarks about society and curse words.
If this was a group of film makers trying to make fun of people who lived off-grid, they missed the mark dramatically.
In closing, the self-proclaimed captain (and there is no ship in sight), is far from fantastic. He’s a dictator father who forced his views onto his children. His regard for their mental and physical state is questionable. If social services saw what he was doing, the kids would be removed from his care. The movie wasn’t even funny to ease the craziness. By the end, I was glad it was over. I never want to see it again.