×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Captain Fantastic’ and Viggo Mortensen’s Message of Hope Is Increasingly Important

Every year, audiences discover films that they like or dislike, but they only embrace a handful of movies on a personal level, as if the filmmakers created the work especially for them. One of those is Bleecker Street’s “Captain Fantastic.”

Star Viggo Mortensen was honored this week at Variety’s Creative Impact Awards in Palm Springs. In his intro, chief film critic Peter Debruge hailed “Captain Fantastic” as “the performance of his career.” Debruge is right, but the film is not just a one-man show, as evidenced by the Cannes award for writer-director Matt Ross, and the SAG Award nomination for best ensemble (added to Mortensen’s own SAG nom).

Mortensen told Variety that audience members’ reactions have often been “fiercely personal,” because Ross has created people whose virtues and flaws are rarely depicted in movies. “The characters are so well written. They’re human and complex, which should be true of any script, but it is not easy to do — especially with a wide range of characters. The audience is rooting for them but sometimes wants to strangle them.”

Mortensen plays Ben, a widower who has raised his six kids in the wild, teaching them to challenge everything, from conventional thinking to junk food to the digital world. But Ben’s values are in turn challenged by his in-laws and eventually by some of the kids themselves (led by oldest son George MacKay). The film respects all of their viewpoints.

“One aspect of the story that people are identifying with is pride,” said Mortensen. “Pride often gets in our way. When Ben comes up against hard facts, he has to swallow his pride a bit. And that’s something we’ve all experienced,” but it isn’t often depicted so clearly.

“Captain Fantastic” arrived in 2016, when anger and confusion seemed to be spiraling out of control. Everyone wants things to be better, and the idealism and soul-searching are reflected in the film, which shows that there are no easy answers — but there is always hope.

Ross reminds audiences “There is a way out of this mess,” says Mortensen. “We just need to listen to each other, and to relate in a different way than we’ve gotten used to.”

After the Palm Springs ceremony, Ross told Variety, “I like characters whose imperfections surprise you. And I like characters who change. I didn’t make the film to preach or to teach a lesson. If I wanted to do that, I would have made a documentary. I want audience members to each have their own reaction on who’s right.”

After Mortensen first read the script, he wrote Ross a 15-page letter full of analysis, insight, and questions. Before filming began, Mortensen arrived with literally a truckload of props, costumes, books, and even a canoe.

As Ross smiled to Variety, “Film is all about time and money, and you never have enough of either. So you want to surround yourself with people who care. Viggo cares about things that matter.”

Ross said he’s long been a fan of Mortensen, who first made a splash in 1985’s “Witness” and showed his versatility in films including “A History of Violence,” “The Indian Runner,” “Eastern Promises,” “The Road,” the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and a slew of other films (in English and in Spanish).

Ross said with admiration, “You don’t catch him acting.”

To those who’ve seen the film, it’s not a surprise that audiences have continued to embrace it or that it’s getting Oscar buzz. The film encourages viewers to keep questioning everything, but reminds them they don’t need to have all the answers — and it’s OK to be wrong occasionally. “Captain Fantastic” assures audiences that it is a good thing to be human. That’s a message that is increasingly important, and that people don’t get often enough.

More Film

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Robert Iger's Pay 'Naked Indecency' in Op-Ed

    After stirring a flurry of reactions over her Tweets calling out wage inequality at the Walt Disney Co. on Sunday, Abigail Disney, a filmmaker and philanthropist who is the grand niece of Walt Disney, penned an opinion column outlining her arguments against Disney’s pay practices. In her op-ed, which was published in the Washington Post [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame' Reaps $90 Million in China by Late Afternoon of Opening Day

    “Avengers: Endgame” is already breaking records in China, raking in $89.6 million (RMB602 million) as of 5 p.m. on opening day Wednesday – two days ahead of the U.S. – and putting itself firmly on track to become the biggest Hollywood title ever in the Middle Kingdom. The Marvel finale has already set a new [...]

  • ‘The Gift: The Journey of Johnny

    Film Review: ‘The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash’

    Very much in the manner of an “unplugged” acoustic album that showcases the musicianship of a major artist without distracting flash and filigree, “The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash” is a tightly focused yet impressively multifaceted documentary that attempts nothing less than to delve past familiar myths and illuminate the soul of its fabled [...]

  • Emily Morgan Cormac Fox Gregoire Debailly

    European Film Promotion Reveals 2019's Producers on the Move

    Twenty of Europe’s up-and-coming producers are going to Cannes with European Film Promotion. The organization unveiled its latest roster of Producers on the Move on Wednesday, a lineup that features France’s Gregoire Debailly, who produced Jean-Bernard Marlin’s “Sheherazade,” which premiered in Critics’ Week in Cannes last year, and Ireland’s Cormac Fox, who produced Sophie Hyde’s [...]

  • Avengers EndGame Trailer

    ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Marvel claims the top spot in spending with “Avengers: Endgame.” Ads placed for the superhero film had an estimated media value of $6.28 million through Sunday for 927 national ad airings on 39 networks. (Spend figures [...]

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    Netflix Can Chill: Academy Rules No Change in Streaming Oscar Eligibility

    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will not change eligibility rules for the Oscars, despite speculation that streaming companies might see a crackdown on their release practices when pursuing golden trophies. A board of governors meeting on Tuesday voted to maintain the status quo, that any feature-length film can be considered for the [...]

  • Aniara review

    Film Review: 'Aniara'

    Each year brings an example or three of purported “thinking person’s science-fiction” films, a category that pretty much embraces anything not centered on monsters or lightsaber battles. These efforts are often more admirable in theory than result, but “Aniara” — the first film drawn from Nobel Prize-winning Swedish poet Harry Martinson’s 1956 cycle of 103 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content