With the Summer over with, the Fall season is here and with it will come some possible Awards contenders. A film that has been garnering quite the buzz after doing the festival rounds is Viggo Mortensen's Captain Fantastic, and here's my review of it.

Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) and his family - Bodevan (George McKay), Kielyr (Samantha Isler), Vespyr (Annalise Basso), Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton), Zaja (Shree Crooks) and Nai (Charlie Shotwell) - live their life in the woods. For his children, it's the only life they've ever known, having grown up there; they spend their days training together and learning together, completing various 'missions', all led by their father. However, after Ben's wife, Leslie (Trin Miller), passes on, he and his children must venture out and face their toughest challenge yet: the real world. As they embark across the country to attend their mother's funeral, they come face to face with all sorts of obstacles and find out just how ill-prepared for the real world they are.
For his sophomore feature, director Matt Ross has crafted what is undoubtedly one of the weirdest films of the year. At times, this works in favour of the film, but, at others, it's also of detriment to the proceedings. The screenplay is bold and relishes in its absurdity, which sometimes provides for some big laughs and bittersweet moments - a family dinner gone wrong scene is truly delightful - but can also feel a little too much and too in your face at other times too - a scene involving Ben's character talking quite openly to his young daughter feels a bit unnecessary, trying too hard for laughs. However, for the most part, it's a fairly fresh and unique script and it's a lot of fun watching this film unfold, because of how unpredictable it is. The film is very funny and charming too; Ross' script brings heart and warmth and energy in abundance. Where it falters though is, despite the fresh, witty writing, this is, in essence, a pretty conventional, paint-by-numbers coming of age story in the body of a provocative indie. The pacing is all over the place and there's a lack of true significance to anything happening. The characters and dialogue are beautifully written, but the actual story and premise itself loses its footing amidst all of it.

However, despite this, it's hard to deny that Captain Fantastic is a well-made film. The direction is slick and astute and the cinematography is crisp and gorgeous; each shot is luscious in colour and looks visually beautifully. The acting is exceptional too, and one of the movie's strongest aspects. The supporting cast of youngsters all seriously manage to impress, giving genuine and convincing performances - something not often able to be said with child actors- with the young Shotwell one of the standouts; taking the belly share of the film's laughs and just winning you over with her heart. George McKay is also a standout as Bodevan, the oldest of the Cash kids, and you feel a sense of relatability to his character, despite him being so different. However, the star of the show is, undoubtedly, Viggo Mortensen. The actor is truly outstanding as Cash, bringing the right balance of intimidation and heart. He completely disappears into the role, to the extent we only see (and wholly believe) him as Ben Cash for around 2 hours or so. It's a performance laden with nuance and charisma and heart and it's incredible to watch.

Overall, Captain Fantastic is a very solid, enjoyable film. It's well crafted: finely written, astutely-directed and superbly act. It's full of heart and charm and is a witty and fun ride to take for a couple of hours. However, at the same time, it falls shorts of living up to its title and actually being  fantastic; it fails to live up to all the early-Awards buzz surrounding it. Ross has made something very good here and it's a funny, absurd and outlandish picture to watch but, despite it all, it's quite forgettable as soon as the credits begin to roll.

Captain Fantastic is a film laden with nuance and craft; so beautifully directed and well-acted. It's an absurd and heartwarming tale, yet it also never quite manages to live up to its title, falling short of actually being fantastic.


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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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