“Always tell the truth. Always take the high road. Live each day like it could be your last. Drink it in. Be adventurous, be bold, but savor it. It goes fast.”
If you had the opportunity to be fully present for your children, could you do it?
In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.
Writer/director Matt Ross was fully focused on parenthood while penning this script. He took questions that he asks himself as a father and translated them into the character of Ben (played by Viggo Mortensen). “My goal was to create a movie that was intellectually stimulating and emotionally moving.”via First Showing.
I’m about seven months late to catching one of the most outstanding and underreported indies of last summer, so pardon the delay. Each year brings constant booms in technology and increased distractions for us millennials and non-millennials. Captain Fantastic delves into a territory I’d be most uncomfortable with – an existence void of the toxic influences of society. The horror! Right?
Here’s what I learned from Captain Fantastic…
Is knowing how to set a broken bone or how to treat a severe burn ridiculous? Knowing how to navigate by the stars in total darkness, that’s ridiculous? How to identify edible plants, how to make clothes from animal skins, how to survive in the forest with nothing but a knife?
That’s ridiculous to you?
Ask More Questions About American Culture
The clip above is a brilliant scene in the movie when Viggo Mortensen’s character’s parenting skills are questioned by his sister-in-law. Are his children getting an adequate education, or is he holding them back from their full potential? Rather than have his children robotically regurgitating information, he wanted them to be philosopher kings. His seven-year-old daughter stupefied her city-living teenage cousins when she eloquently explained what the Bill of Rights was, while they could barely muster a sentence. So who’s parenting is really better?
Are You Fully Present?
This was one of the lessons that struck me the most, because I’m never fully present or engaged in anything I do. I’m distracted. Always. Because of texting, emailing, social media, my cell phone, I’m constantly multi-tasking. I’m never fully present, and this is a problem.
“I’m struggling with being present as a parent.So I was thinking, “What would it be like if you completely devoted yourself?” Because one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child is to be present in their lives. I was thinking about what [it’d be like to be] completely present. Would it be an insanely great thing to do? Or an insane thing? It changed, obviously, but that was the beginning of it.” Matt Ross via Esquire
What Lessons Do We Pass On?
Although I’m not a parent, Captain Fantastic makes me wonder what pieces of myself do I want to imprint on others? The movie taps into the ideals of religion, community and family, but what’s most important? .
“In a way, the father in the movie is a fantasy of myself. It’s not an accident that it sounds like a superhero movie. It asks a question, which is: ‘Is he?’ He is a father who’s trying to behave in a superheroic manner, an extreme form of conscious parenting.” Matt Ross via Time
You Can Change Your World
Okay, so it might sound a little cheesy, but I think I sometimes forget that my voice and actions have more strength than I realize. Especially in today’s political climate, our voices are more important now than ever. One of my favorite quotes from the movie from Ben: “If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.”
My Vocabulary Needs Rebooting
“Interesting is a non-word. You know you’re supposed to avoid it.”
All six of these children have a higher vocabulary range than I’ll probably ever have, and their experimental lifestyle/teaching is to thank for that. It’s not that I don’t have a high vocabulary, but I get stuck using the same words with nobody forcing me to dig deeper for more intelligent words.
Don’t Always Do What You’re Told
The conflict in Captain Fantastic is whether or not that should go to their mother’s funeral in the city. While Ben wants to do what his wife’s family wants, to stay away, he realizes that that’s not what his wife would want.
“We can’t go to mommy’s funeral. We have to do what we’re told. Some fights, you can’t win. The powerful control the lives of the powerless. That’s the way the world works. It’s unjust and it’s unfair. But that’s just too damn bad. We have to shut up and accept it.”
[now turning around in his seat]
“Well, fuck that!”
Coffins Are Overrated
You do you from beginning to the very end.
Ben: [commandeering the eulogy from the minister] “First of all, Leslie practiced Buddhism, which to her was a philosophy and not an organized religion. In fact, Leslie abhorred all organized religions. To her, they were the most dangerous fairy tales ever invented, designed to elicit blind obedience, and strike fear into the hearts of the innocent and the uninformed. Leslie’s last will and testament. And I quote, ‘in the event of my death, I, Leslie Abigail Cash, as a Buddhist, wish to be cremated. My funeral, such as it is, shall be a celebration of the life cycle, with music and dancing. After, it is my expressed desire that my ashes shall be taken to a nondescript location, preferably public and heavily populated. At which point my ashes, promptly and unceremoniously, are to be flushed down the nearest toilet.’ End quote. Now that’s comedy.”
What did you love about Captain Fantastic? Let me know!