Much has been made about Viggo Mortensen’s career post-“Lord of the Rings.” After Aragorn, the actor had the chance for the biggest roles in the biggest films. He turned most of them down, even “The Hobbit” movies.
Instead he’s worked with some of his favorite filmmakers (David Cronenberg, thrice) and hopped around the world, even doing the difficult and hypnotic art film “Jauja” in Argentina. “Captain Fantastic” finds Mortensen back home in America, but playing an even more quixotic character: Ben Cash, a loner who has raised his six kids in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. After his wife’s death, he struggles with the notion that his very free and open way of parenting may be as rigid as the strict social systems from which he’d escaped.
Americans tend not to be too open to alternative parenting or lifestyles. It’s useful to see a film that doesn’t portray what Ben does as negative — or as wholly positive.
What’s interesting is at the beginning of the film, you might think, "Oh, I see what this is. This is going to be some well-made movie with an ideological slant. It’s going to be about some liberal, left-wing, utopian fantasy. They’re going to be our heroes and they’re going to be up against their conservative foes and obstacles."
That’s one way to make a movie, and that could be good. But this isn’t that limited. As you get into the story you realize it’s not all perfect. Not everything is condoned, and not everything is condemned either. It’s very layered.
We do tend to prefer things to be black and white.
The movie, without trying to be ideological, really puts its finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the country at the time. It speaks to the lack of communication, the polarization of society. We’re in a moment right now in the U.S. when people are not talking to each other. They’re not even arguing, at least in any kind of constructive way. They’re isolated. They’re in these little camps based on religion, based on race, based on political ideology, based on socioeconomic class. There’s a lot of dysfunctional behavior and lack of social interaction. I think this movie speaks to that — to the value of communicating and trying to find a new balance and way to speak to each other.