Australian Council on Children and the Media

Captain Fantastic

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Not recommended under 13; parental guidance recommended 13 to 15 due to disturbing scenes and themes, and coarse language

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Captain Fantastic
  • a review of Captain Fantastic completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 13 September 2016.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to disturbing scenes and themes, and coarse language
Children aged 13 to 15 parental guidance recommended due to disturbing scenes and themes, and coarse language
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Captain Fantastic
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes, coarse language and nudity
Length 119 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Captain Fantastic is a movie about Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) and his family who live self-sufficiently in an isolated forest. The children are home-schooled and taught to place value in books and music over consumerism and technology. However, when their mother (Trin Miller) dies, the family must leave their isolation and confront the challenges of the outside world.   

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Mental illness; suicide; death of a parent; family breakdown; death of an animal

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • One of the children tackles a deer and slits its throat. Blood spurts everywhere and we see the deer die. Later, other children hang up the deer carcass in preparation for eating it.
  • The children participate in fight training with sticks. The father encourages them to “stab to kill”.
  • The children are given weapons (crossbow, knives etc.) as presents by their father.
  • The children watch their cousins play violent video games.
  • Ben’s father-in-law shoots an arrow near Ben’s head to show him how dangerous crossbows are.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

  • In a coming of age ritual, Bo has deer blood painted on his face and then he eats a raw deer heart.
  • One of the young children has animal bones hanging around her room.
  • It is revealed (but not shown) that the children’s mother had severe bipolar disorder and has committed suicide. The children are very distraught by this revelation. One of the sons gets a knife and starts stabbing the wall in frustration.
  • The family is rock climbing and one of the children slips and breaks his wrist.
  • Ben fakes a heart attack so the kids can steal food from the supermarket.
  • One of the girls slips, falls off a roof and hits her head. She is badly injured and has a neck brace and crutches for the rest of the movie.
  • The family dig up their mother’s coffin (from her grave) and cremate her.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed or scared by the above mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed or scared by the above mentioned scenes.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may be affected by the above mentioned scenes.

Product placement

  • Nike and Adidas are mentioned

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • The family are talking about the book Lolita and the Ben explains to the kids about rape and sexual intercourse.
  • Ben talks to Bo about sex.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Ben is seen naked (but not in a sexual context).
  • We see a young child’s naked bottom.
  • Ben kisses his wife
  • Bo and a teen girl are shown heavily ‘making out’. Bo says that he would like to have sex with her.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Ben explains to his kids what crack cocaine is, and its negative side effects.
  • A teenage girl smokes a cigarette.
  • Ben gives his children (including the young ones) wine at dinner.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • fuck/fucking/mother fucker
  • shit
  • butt
  • whore
  • bitch
  • the kids give the middle finger

In a nutshell

Captain Fantastic is an emotionally touching and poignant film about grief, the difficulties of parenting and the importance of respect. Because of disturbing themes and scenes and coarse language, the film is not suitable for young children most suitable for viewers 15 years and older.  It is not recommended for children under 13 and parental guidance is recommended for 13-15 year olds.

The main messages from this movie are:

  • relationships and knowledge are more important than material goods
  • we should respect others’ values and choices in life 

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • individuality and uniqueness
  • respect for others
  • strength in adversity

Parents may also wish to discuss:

  • the lifestyle differences between the two families shown in the film
  • the reasons why parents may want/need to hide the truth from their children

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