I have said this many times this year and I will say it again. The independent circuit has owned 2016 in terms of quality content. Hollywood productions have hit a snag and really only delivered a few great films. Captain Fantastic is another indie film that should be on your radar if you are trying to come up with a list of favourites for this year. For film lovers, storytelling doesn't get much better than this. You'd think that a film that shows absolutely no backstory on a character who has passed away, immediately demanding audiences to feel emotions for a character they haven't seen before would be jarring and off-putting, but this film pulls off quite a few impossible plot elements. Harnessing its weird and off-beat characters, Captain Fantastic is both a quirky film as well as a dark comedy at times. Here is why I love this film so much and why it is one of the best films of the year.
The Sincere And Fantastic Premise
Beginning with the death of their mom, six children, along with the supervision of their father, continue to live in the forest together, where they had been nursing their mother to better health. Home-schooling them and teaching them the harsh reality of the outside world, this father may just be the best thing or the worst thing for his kids. From being unwanted at her funeral to being inappropriate at family dinners, this is just about the most off-putting, yet charming family you will see on screen this year. Emotionally satisfying from beginning to end and told through such finesse that even the most casual moviegoer may even be moved by this story. It may seem like a simple and quirky little tale, but the filmmaking aspects are what elevate this film, which was already wholly original to begin with.
Escalating An Already Great Premise
When it comes to performances in movies, there are some that are terrific, but are placed in a lacklustre films, others that downgrade a films quality, due to the miscasting, and others (in the case of Captain Fantastic) that make a great film even better. I was able to buy into this premise from the very beginning, being a very open-minded film goer, but Viggo Mortensen's performance throughout this film is transcending. I loved every moment of this picture and his performance only added to that greatness. From tearing up at the precise moment to add more emotion, to being completely stoic in instances that required him to, I felt like I was watching a man that had accepted the loss of his wife, but was still so devoted to her, that he would do whatever it took to complete her last will in testament.
Creating Cinematic Memories
What does it take for you to remember a specific moment from a film? Does it take Darth Vader revealing that he is Luke Skywalker's father? Or how about John Bender pumping his fist to close out the film The Breakfast Club? There are so many iconic moments in film history and although some may not agree with me, I have added a specific moment from this film to my favourite and most effective scenes of all time. It occurs a mere ten minutes into this film, so it is definitely not a spoiler. It happens right as their father Ben delivers the news that their mother has died. Normally a director would be able to grab a few tears from child actors and make it seem believable, but all six children ball their eyes out as if they had actually lost a family member in real life. Holding on their faces as the music swells just enough without getting sappy, this is one of the most effective scenes I have ever witnessed, when talking about finding out that another character has passed away. This may just be me, but I found this scene to be truly remarkable.
My Overall Thoughts
Look, I may be a sucker for independent films, but it is kind of hard to deny that this year has been the year for independent films. The greatest films of the year are all underground for the most part. Captain Fantastic joins the club of films with a story worth telling. With superb direction in getting incredible performances out of everyone on screen (the kids included) and a script that flows very naturally, this truly is a film that shouldn't be missed. For everything this film sets up in the first act, I felt like everything was wrapped up beautifully in the final moments of this picture and it the tears of joy didn't stop. Captain Fantastic is fantastic to say the least.