The Lord of the Rings actor pulls off a convincing performance in the indie family dramedy.

In Captain Fantastic, unorthodox father Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) raises his 6 children in the wilderness of the Washington state in a bid to insulate them from consumer capitalism and organized religion.

Under his supervision, the kids, aged 7 to 18, read George Eliot and Fyodor Dostoevsky in place of J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins during their growing up years. He put them through tough physical drills and teach them about drinking, stealing and killing (wild animals). To mark their coming of age, he would have them hunt a deer in the woods, gut it with a knife and eat its heart raw.

That’s the Cash family’s way of life – until its matriarch’s death takes them back to civilization. After Cash re-acquaints with his wife’s family and introduces his children to their cousins, he finds himself having to square up to mainstream norms. Not only is his radical parenting method challenged by other parents, it’s also questioned by his socially-awakened children.

‘The Lord of the Rings’ actor shows preference for small, independent projects, like ‘Captain Fantastic’, over big commercial productions.

Playing the free-spirited patriarch of this fictional family is Viggo Mortensen, best known for his role as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. While his character opts to live off the grid in the film, as an actor, Mortensen’s also known for his preference for small, independent projects over big commercial productions. Captain Fantastic is his latest indie outing.

Mortensen’s nuanced portrayal of Cash is certainly noteworthy. Cash is both a liberal mentor and a tough disciplinarian. He’s hippy and non-conformist; he’s also rigid and overbearing. Mortensen is convincing on both fronts. He breathes life into a character that is not really believable. What’s more? He breathes likeability into a character that is frankly quite unlikeable for all his idiosyncrasies.

The Danish-American actor’s performance is especially moving when the righteous patriarch he plays finds himself losing grip of his children’s unquestioning loyalty. The 57-year-old is extremely effective in drawing the audience closer to his character’s pain and vulnerability as the latter struggles to come to terms with civilized norms. His chemistry with the scene-stealing child and teen actors is also evident, making this “fantasy family” all the more relatable.

Mortensen’s standout performance hasn’t won him an acting nod. But Captain Fantastic’s director Matt Ross, who’s better known for his acting roles in HBO series Big Love (2006-2011) and Silicon Valley (2014-2016), has already taken home a directing award (Un Certain Regard section) from the Cannes Film Festival. Catch the film to find out if you’re similarly a fan of this family drama.

Cast: ★★★★☆

Script: ★★★★☆

Soundtrack: ★★★★☆

Overall rating: ★★★★☆

Release Date: 14 July 2016

Runtime: 119 minutes

Language: English

Censorship Rating: M18 (Some Nudity and Coarse Language)

Genre: Drama

Director: Matt Ross

Featured cast: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basson, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Cooks, Charlie Shotwell, Frank Langella

Check out the trailer of Captain Fantastic below.