movie notes

Last Sunday evening, we watched Captain Fantastic. I’d been avoiding the movie (the word-of-mouth reviews hadn’t been that great), but then Sunday night arrived and there we were without something to watch so when Captain Fantastic popped up on Amazon streaming, we went with it. 

Here are my notes.

Summary: I thought, based on comments I heard prior to watching, that this movie was about homeschooling. Instead, I was surprised to discover, it had very little to do with homeschooling and much more to do with mental illness, living off-the-grid, shattered dreams, and family relationships.

Analysis: The father appears to be motivated by thoughtful, outside-the-box thinking, but he is actually driven by fear: If he can protect his children, successfully train them to be strong and independent, he believes he will save them from the depression that took his wife’s life. He never says that of course. That’s just me reading between the lines.

Unfortunately, the movie only skims the surface of these complex issues, rendering the whole (potentially intriguing) story trite. The acting is solid, but the characters are underdeveloped and the plot riddled with inconsistencies. Instead of resonating with viewers (we kept laughing at the characters, not with them, and my poor husband was in agony: “How many more minutes till this is over?”), the movie ends up feeling preposterous.

Conclusion: Captain Fantastic is a cross between Little Miss Sunshine, but without the nuance, and Glass Castle (the book; the movie’s coming out soon), but without the authenticity. However, the movie did make me think—and even write an entire blog post on the matter!—so there’s that.

And then one of my husband’s co-workers said he found it refreshing—so many movies are extreme and unrealistic, but this one was at least extreme and unrealistic in the opposite direction. Which is a valid point.

Have you seen the movie? I’d love to hear your take.

PS. If you wish to dig deeper, here is a more nuanced analysis.

This same time, years previous: dance party, the quotidian (7.27.15), rest and play, the girl and the tea party, classic bran muffins, banana bran muffins, Indian pilaf of rice and split peas, Grace’s gingerbread.


  • Karen

    I respected the movies portrayal of someone (in this case a family) taking on the status quo in such a big way; having the guts to be true to their deepest beliefs, despite the repercussions. And I didn't see the ending as surrendering. Just recalculating.

    • Jennifer Jo

      I hope to! The trailer looked good, and I don't remember all the story details, so it probably won't bother me too much if they switch things around.

  • mommychef

    I kind of loved it. I think your analysis is pretty spot on. I remember feeling sadness; motherless children will do that to me. What I really liked though was that is was different from regular Hollywood, not everyone was "picture perfect pretty". I thought the ending was great. Hopefulness plus resignation/acceptance of what came to be. I read the director's wife's writing on Food52 and follow her blog and instagram dashandbella, that's how I found out about it. I'm more of a foodie/writing enthusiast than a movie junkie but anyhow, that's my take.

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