The new movie Captain Fantastic won’t be everyone’s proverbial “cup of tea” but it is perhaps one of the better movies that I have seen over the last few months. In essence it is the challenge that we all face, (not merely parents) about how to carve out a life worth living from the plethora of choices that exist.
In the film, a couple (Ben and Trin) decide to go “off grid” to educate their children in the things that they believe to be truly important. There is much to their credit, not least of which is the relationships that they build between each other. Of course not all the decisions are wise, sometimes getting lucky, narrowly avoiding disaster. Their choices are grounded in beliefs, naturally rather leftist and alternative to the mainstream, but are a welcome and timely reminder that the status quo or indeed the general culture of the day, clearly hasn’t really achieved its promises, which often seem as empty as the off casts and refuse that at best, are redirected to landfill. This is a vivid reflection of the tension within the American dream, though of course, could equally be a British one.
Values, norms and challenges
This is not a comfortable watch, there are a plethora of challenges, notably the physical endurance challenges that the children face, but also our own cultural comforts and inability to face some of the glaring facts of modern, or post-modern life. One cannot help but admire the comprehension, creativity and engaged accomplishment achieved by all the children, albeit without the context of wider “socialisation”.
I’m not giving anything away by outlining a plot which centres around Ben, (Captain Fantastic) trying to look after his children following the death of their mother. Cultural values collide within the wider family leading to the inevitable flashpoint. Whatever you think of Ben’s methods or values (played by Viggo Mortensen – you may know from Lord of the Rings) there is a very moving penultimate scene in which he provides some parting words as he “blesses” his son Bo (George MacKay). Words that perhaps we all long to hear.
So, as ever, this prompted me to consider the choices we (ok…. I) make all the time. Invariably clients want to protect the lifestyle that they have, but perhaps it is worth pausing to reflect if this is really what you want. We all tend to live within what is familiar and shy away from giving ourselves too much creative leeway to construct a life that may look and feel considerably different from the one we currently live. I’m not passing any value judgement, merely reminding you (and myself) to pause to consider if we are conforming to expectations rather than forming them.
Here’s the trailer, the film is officially released on Friday 9th September. The American “child actors” are typically brilliant, but 24 year-old London born George MacKay is exceptional and certainly has a very bright future as an actor and continues to make some very sensible role choices.
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