An unorthodox family that lives in the forest of Washington State and to some extent lives off the land with home schooled kids, who are brought up to be self reliant then has to cope with suburban America, is a good premise for humour and drama. Dad supervises their education, takes them on adventures, encourages critical thinking and leads the entertainment around the camp fire. The kids love it. Well the four girls do. Both the boys have their private doubts. The shadow over their life is that mom is in hospital in Arizona. The plot kicks off once mom dies and her father and husband argue over the funeral arrangements. This leads to a road trip and an exposure of the kids to how the rest of America lives (in particular the white middle class).
This film most strongly reminded me of Little Miss Sunshine, which is another film about an orthodox family on a road trip.
Captain Fantastic could have shown Ben leading his family on the road trip to do battle on behalf of his dead wife in the same indomitable way as he brings them up in the forest, but actually the story is more nuanced. It felt like it was pulling its punches in this department as Ben blunders and fails in his battle with his rich father in law.
The movie is part commentary on middle class suburban America from an outsider perspective and also a commentary on alternative lifestyle home schooling types. How shallow, wasteful and lazy the mainstream is and how much the alternative lifestylers depends on the rest of us. It is also a story on how the perfect dad is still fallible.
Ian's rating 3/5