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Captain Fantastic review: Super dad fights to save his family

By Damon Smith

Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife, Leslie (Trin Miller), raise their six-strong brood in relative isolation so their children won't be tainted by capitalism or organised religion.

The youngsters - Bodevan (George MacKay), Kielyr (Samantha Isler), Vespyr (Annalise Basso), Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton), Zaja (Shree Crooks) and Nai (Charlie Shotwell) - learn to live off the land and fire their imaginations by reading classics like The Brothers Karamazov. Alas, Leslie has bipolar disorder and takes her own life while undergoing hospital treatment.

Ben wants to take the children to the funeral, but Leslie's father, Jack (Frank Langella), forbids him from attending. The family then boards their ramshackle bus and heads to New Mexico to give Leslie the Buddhist cremation she requested in her will.

Captain Fantastic is a heartfelt and bittersweet meditation on the perils of modern parenting, which lives up to the superlative of its title. Mortensen's magnificent portrayal of a patriarch who worries he might be ruining his children's lives is matched by mesmerising performances from young co-stars, including London-born MacKay.

Writer-director Matt Ross's script compels us to care deeply about the wounded characters as they search for peace and unity.

Four stars

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