It really was fantastic.
In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father (Viggo Mortensen) devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.
I wasn’t sure from the bizarre opening sequence whether I was going to like the whole Bear Grylls/Swiss Family Robinson vibe to the piece BUT by the end, I was completely won over.
Endearing, entertaining and heartbreaking. A feel good family film in the most dysfunctional way possible. This might even rival Little Miss Sunshine.
I couldn’t believe that this was penned and directed by that creepy guy from Big Love.
Matt Ross delivers a heartwarming story that tackles grief, rites of passage and the woes of the modern society brilliantly.
The unorthodox upbringing may raise a few eyebrows but it almost worked. A strict regime of self defense, intellectual discussions and living off the land is something that I couldn’t even muster (Let alone the majority of the younger generation).
Their campfire Kumbaya may have been a little corny BUT it established a crazy but close-knit family unit hidden in a nirvana away from the real world. Or was it?
There was a quirky and easygoing feel to the piece and with all the crazy get up they were wearing, you could have mistaken it for a Wes Anderson flick!
It wasn’t long before tragic news forced the family to emerge from their natural habitat. And this was where it won me over.
The cast were perfectly chosen. The only one that grated against me was Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton). As much as you could feel for the poor lad, his incessant screaming and temper tantrums really got on my wick.
George MacKay (Sunshine on Leith/Pride) was very good as the socially awkward Bo secretly applying for college behind his father’s back.
I loved all the contrasts and social commentary; “Why is everyone fat? Are they sick?” There were some witty one liners as Ben and co. couldn’t believe the obesity and mindless brainwashing from the merciless corporations on the masses.
“You would rather celebrate a magical fictitious elf over a living humanitarian who did so much for our human rights?”
I loved the comparison of parenting styles when Ben visited his sister’s family. Kathryn Hahn (Bad Moms) and Steve Zahn (Dallas Buyers Club) were brilliant. Not enough of them in my opinion.
It was hilarious when Ben showed off his children’s knowledge on The Bill of Rights while his sister’s kids were too busy with their heads in their phones or X-Boxes.
The journey was mad BUT entertaining as the family made out they were bible bashers just to evade a curious copper’s questions about the kids’ truancy.
I was startled at Ben educating his youngest on sex, rape and capitalism. Mental. Even crazier when he faked a seizure in a supermarket for OPERATION SAVE THE FOOD so the clan could fill their boots.
The last 30 minutes was where it really hit home when Ben decides to gatecrash his wife’s funeral despite his father-in-law’s wishes.
Virgo Mortensen deserved the Oscar nod. You could see beneath all that intellectual sparring that there was a tormented man struggling to deal with the loss of his wife. Unsure what to do.
Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) was superb as the angry father in law. Blaming Ben for taking his daughter and grandchildren away from him. Deluding them into believing this way of life was acceptable.
BUT as much as you were impressed by the kids’ education and survival instincts, they were completely lost when it came to social interaction and as the story progressed, you realised that they might not be as into the idea as their grief-stricken father.
Things reaching boiling point when Bo finally decides to talk about his college application as Ben begins to re-evaluate himself.
I should have known with Alex Somers orchestrating the score that Sigur Ros’ Jonsi would pop up in this. A wonderful soundtrack.
I was pleasantly surprised and even on second viewing, it still had me through the highs and lows.
A heartfelt, engaging family drama that is worthy of your attention.