Film re­view

TV3’s movie ex­pert Kate Rodger is car­ried away on her own personal day­dream after hit­ting the road with this fan­tas­tic cin­ema fam­ily.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - ON SCREEN -

Cap­tain Fan­tas­tic

Star­ring Viggo Morten­son and Ge­orge MacKay. Writ­ten and di­rected by Matt Ross.

Fan­tas­tic by name, fan­tas­tic by na­ture, this sto­ry­telling de­light was one of my picks of this year’s New Zealand In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val and is clearly de­serv­ing of a full gen­eral re­lease. Much has been said about how this role for Viggo Mortensen has, quite sim­ply, been made by the movie gods, so per­fect is the fit – so let me throw my “AB­SO­LUTELY” into the mix.

Mortensen is in his creative el­e­ment here, in an in­spi­ra­tional and mov­ing story of par­ents who opt out of so­ci­ety to raise their fam­ily in the wilder­ness of the Pa­cific North­west. When they’re forced back into the ‘real world’, their tight unit faces its big­gest chal­lenge – stay­ing to­gether.

As the head of a fam­ily of six quite ex­traor­di­nary chil­dren, Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) is po­ten­tially the par­ent we all wish we could be – if we lived in the for­est, killed, gut­ted and cooked our own food, and had to climb a per­ilous cliff-face as part of our PE while con­sum­ing a literary diet of Noam Chom­sky, Chaucer and Shake­speare in our down time. When we first meet the Cash fam­ily, they are with­out their mother. After a decade in the for­est with her fam­ily, she’s now in hospi­tal and un­der the mis­guided parochial eye of her priv­i­leged fa­ther Jack (Frank Lan­gella).

As events un­fold for this wilder­ness fam­ily, they find them­selves out of the for­est and on the road into the Amer­i­can hin­ter­land of huge high­ways, mega-malls and fast food – the ul­ti­mate hippy fam­ily in home­made clothes trav­el­ling in a bus they call ‘Steve’. Need­less to say, the grand­par­ents are none too happy when they all roll into town.

There are just so many things to love about this story. There is, of course, the plen­ti­ful sup­ply of ‘fish out of water’ ma­te­rial to mine for both hu­mour and heart here, as the Cash kids dip their toes in a world en­tirely alien to them. Their first ever visit to a fast-food res­tau­rant, or in­dulging in a lit­tle su­per­mar­ket shoplift­ing, or try­ing to re­late to kids their own age who couldn’t dis­sect the in­nards of their XBox let alone a deer; it’s as thought-pro­vok­ing as it is hi­lar­i­ous.

Mortensen drives this film, but his support cast of young ac­tors is univer­sally ex­cel­lent, with not a flat note be­tween them.

As I left the cin­ema it was all I could do not to bolt for my near­est camper­van deal­er­ship on a mis­sion to grab my kids plus a few hun­dred books and run off into the near­est for­est-clad vale for a life of liv­ing off the land. I woke up from my won­drous day­dream just a few mo­ments later as I stood in a dense queue for a dou­ble-shot flat white before trot­ting off down the road to pay an ex­tor­tion­ate sum to park my car for two hours. I sighed deeply as I walked – oh to be that coura­geous.

Cap­tain Fan­tas­tic is that kind of film. The one you leave with mas­cara run­ning down your face, your heart pound­ing with an al­most evan­gel­i­cal fer­vour, se­cure in the knowl­edge that cin­ema can, could and should change your life – pro­vid­ing you’re brave enough to let it.

“The grand­par­ents are none too happy when they all roll into town. ”

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