Ross’ directorial debut 28 Hotel Rooms was a tedious exercise in lo-fi navel-gazing. This, his sophomore feature, is such a marked improvement that it’s hard to believe it’s the work of the same filmmaker. Viggo Mortensen stars as Ben, a man determined to raise his children on his own terms deep in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. In some regards, the kids thrive – their daily routine of study and survival training has turned them into precocious warrior poets. But when the death of his wife forces Ben to reconnect with the world he’s shunned, the extent of the family’s social maladjustment becomes apparent.
The film largely strikes a delicate balance between heartfelt drama and offbeat comedy. Sadly, in its final moments it succumbs to mawkishness, hurriedly resolving familial tensions in a bid to end on a crowd-pleasing note. Still, uniformly stellar performances and Stéphane Fontaine’s sumptuous cinematography make it easy enough to overlook this misstep.
Captain Fantastic | Directed by Matt Ross (USA 2016) with Viggo Mortensen, Frank Langella. Starts August 18