First Hit: This is an amazing film about family, love, and the belief in doing something different.
This film stayed with me for days after watching it. The strength of the film is in the characters.
I’m not sure where they got the name for the film, but to let you know it has nothing to do with a fantasy comic book character and all to do with an amazing man brave enough to raise his children in a way that makes them fully responsible for their actions, by giving the skills to make good choices, and allowing them the freedom to discover.
Viggo Mortensen (as the father Ben) has a daily regimen for his six children that includes, hunting, climbing, running, exercise, reading, cooking, cleaning, and helping their siblings. They are living somewhere deep in the woods in the Pacific Northwest far away from any city and the noise of urban and suburban America.
The children all speak at least four languages and the truth when they talk. They have been home-schooled, are resilient, and each have their unique personal strengths that come out in the film. We learn that their mother Leslie (Trin Miller) has been in the hospital for 3 months for her struggles of being bipolar.
Ben then learns on a trip to town to get mail and supplies, that she has committed suicide. He tells the children in a very straightforward manner and their grieving process is touchingly shown. They want to go to the funeral but Leslie’s father Jack (Frank Langella) forbids it and threatens Ben with being arrested. He blames Ben for Leslie’s life choices and for making his daughter ill.
Of course the audience and Abigail, (Ann Dowd) Leslie’s mom, knows different; but it makes for some riveting scenes between Ben and Jack. During the trip to the funeral, they visit Leslie’s sister Harper (Kathryn Hahn), brother-in-law Dave (Steve Zahn), and their two boys. The scenes during this visit are interesting as well as hilarious.
Mortensen again reminds me here about how good an actor he is. He is fantastic (maybe why the film was named this) and clearly shows why he’s a great actor. George McKay (as Bo) was amazing as the oldest son. Samantha Isler (as Kielyr) was so present and strong as the oldest daughter. Annaliese Basso (as Vespyr) was sublime as the second oldest daughter. Nicholas Hamilton (as Rellian) was the second oldest son was wonderful in his pivotal role. Shree Crooks and Charlie Shotwell (as Zaja and Nai respectively) played the two youngest children and they brought so much humor and joy to the film that it would have been far less without them. Langella was perfect as the conservative, wealthy father of Leslie who stressed about the path his daughter took. Dowd was great as the slightly oppressed wife of Langella while being understanding of her son-in-law Ben and her daughter’s wishes. Matt Ross wrote and directed this film. The writing was outstanding, sharp, pointed and elegant all at the same time. His direction was spot on, leaving the audience to engage and learn more about this family.
Overall: One of the very best films I’ve seen all year.