Monday, 19 September 2016


Matt Ross' earnest, open-minded treatise on the benefits of alternative lifestyles may lack the sense to follow through on its more intelligent impulses, ameliorative ambiguities that query the very thoughts that fuel Captain Fantastic's premise, but at least it possesses them at all. It starts as it ends, in a tiresome tidal wave of twee uplift, blithely sweeping away any such hopes you may harbour for genuine complexity and sensitivity. But what appears to be a simple screed swiftly evolves into a smarter work altogether, one whose broad strokes both smother its intelligence and allow it to thrive unsuspectingly. The cumulative impact of Captain Fantastic is one of even-handed openness, an encouragement to embrace one another not in spite of our differences but in support of them. It's a trite point to make, I know, and it's one which Ross frequently appears deaf to himself, yet the thornier aspects of the film actually serve to enhance the effect. So long as one is savvy enough to see it, the questionable behaviour of several of these characters may not consistently be questioned by director, but are free for endless audience scrutiny, and deposit layer upon further layer of depth to this insightful social satire. It's a shame, then, and unfortunately not even an inevitable one, that Captain Fantastic eventually reverts to the kind of quirky indie comedy stylings, all white smugness and patriarchal back-patting, that it had seemed to flout ever increasingly as it progressed. Like his central character, Ross' heart is in the right place, but it leads him to one wrong place after another.