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I often have days when I long for the simple life, living off the grid and without the worries of annoying neighbours or which program to watch on television because there are just too many choices. First world problems, yes, I hear ya!

Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) take this to a whole other level. He has been living in the wilderness with his brood of six children for ten years. In between teaching them survival skills such as rock climbing, hand-to-hand combat, hunting and farming, he is also teaching them philosophy, politics and literature. He believes in non-conformance, so much so that the kids all have unique names that he and his wife made up.When tragedy strikes, Ben is forced to return to civilisation with his kids to face the families they left behind who still cannot understand their decision to live like Robinson Crusoe. For the kids who have never known a life sitting in front of a television, playing noisy video games or watched Star Trek, there is nothing appealing about life in the city. Though they understand the broader world, they have never lived it.

Captain Fantastic is well-balanced storytelling with a mixture of fun, adventure and drama that will at times make you question your own daily life. Mortensen’s performance as the father who thrives on challenging his children’s minds and bodies is heart-felt. You will never doubt that he does everything out of love, even when they go on their “supermarket” missions.

This ensemble group of fearless children – George McKay, Annalise Basso, Samantha Isler, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Crooks, Charlie Shotwell – give strong performances that belie their young years.

On the more grown-up side, Mortensen is supported by Frank Langella and Ann Dowd as Ben’s wealthy in-laws whose love for their grandchildren is never in doubt, despite their disagreements; and Kathryn Hahn and Steve Zahn as his sister and brother-in-law. Even as they disagree with Ben and his methods, they never question the love he has for his family.

Written and directed by Matt Ross, Captain Fantastic had me laughing as much as it made me cry. It is now showing in selected cinemas across Australia.

 

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