Captain Fantastic

We don’t get a chance to watch movies in the theater anymore. With 4 kids and the cost of tickets it’s just not something we feel is necessary. However, every week we take out 2-3 movies from the library (because they are free!) and watch them with a giant bowl of homemade popcorn when the kids go to sleep.  The library typically offers an unusual variety of films and it’s always interesting to see what we come up with for the week. This week we had the pleasure of watching a fairly new film called Captain Fantastic. 

The plot is something like this: there is a family of 7 living off the grid in the middle of the woods because they don’t believe that normal American society encourages people to thrive intellectually, and lends itself to people not being able to function in both normal and emergency situations. The mother has gone to a hospital while suffering from bipolar disorder. While there she kills herself. Her family (father, mother, sister) go against her will and have her buried. The kids convince the father to go on a mission to save their mother’s body. 

It is a phenomenal movie. One of the best we have seen. Our initial fear was that the family would be portrayed as crazy (as most times off grid families are portrayed this way). We were pleasantly surprised. Not only did they not portray them as crazy but they portrayed the typical American family as undereducated and coddling of their young. You are really meant to admire this guy and the way he raises his family, even though even his kids don’t always agree with his methods. 

There are several parts of the movie that really stuck with me. One of them was a dinner they had with his sister in law’s family.  The entire scene demonstrated the fear that most American families have for keeping complicated issues from their children.  Protecting them from subjects that are “disturbing”. We don’t do this and we are often looked at in the same way her family looked at them. Also it had the best line in the whole film, “How did you kill that chicken? With an axe or a knife?” 

I also really appreciated the movies portrayal of mental illness. The father was adamant that people did not say the mother was crazy. He talked about her illness in biological terms, talked about her sarotonin imbalances, and refused to allow people to hide her illness. Instead of allowing it to be said that “sometimes sick people die” he came back with exactly what was wrong with her and never blamed her. 


The end of the movie was especially wonderful and thought provoking. The eldest son applied to and was accepted to all of the top colleges (Yale, MIT, etc) because he felt he wasn’t properly prepared for the real world. Granted he already knew a great deal of what was probably going to be taught to him and I was concerned that the writers would send him to college which would most likely be a terrible decision for him. People go to college to be integral members of a society he doesn’t belong to and doesn’t understand. Thankfully the writers came through for us yet again and instead sent him traveling the world to find his place. 

The second thing about the ending that was pretty amazing was the compromise the father came to for both his kids and the rest of the family. He moved them to an off grid lifestyle with less isolation. The kids were in school (but probably also continuing his style of homeschooling with that). It was very much like the lifestyle we are building. It reinforced my belief that we are doing the right thing for our kids.  We want our kids to know the world around them but we also want them to understand that it may not be the best way to live. 

 This is definitely a movie we are purchasing. 

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