Saturday, 17 September 2016

Thank you, Captain Fantastic

Yes, see this film. Captain Fantastic. Beautiful, funny, disarming, ambiguous, winning, truthful and, most unusual, it didn't make me feel, well, huh, here's the lonesome loony freak!

It's a film about the clash of cultures. Choose, alternative or conventional. And it focuses on themes of upbringing, parenting, what it is to create a society and a culture; what your knowledge is, and what it does to you and the world you create.

It's one of the first films I've seen which takes that most unfashionable of subjects - education - and treats it with respect.

While home education (British English!) and home schooling (US English!) take so many different forms, those who walk the walk as well as talk the talk, we all share one thing. We lead our kids a lesser-trod route round that wood.

Once you come away from 'normal' and create your own style of 'normal' - however you do that - then we can each feel judged by the group we just left, is that not right? We don't fear their judgement, that's for sure, because by the time we set out on our alternative paths we're usually so strong-armed in our own wisdom/ righteousness/ cussedness/ bloody-mindedness that, frankly, we don't care what anyone says. And that's a premise which this film takes for granted and means we can all breathe a big sigh of relief.

Wearing my critical hat, there are moments I want to take issue with, and we talked muchly about the ending, which can be read two ways. To conventional schoolers, it will say, in the end, you submit. But we see what submission means: the world that the kids grew and knew about - woods, fields, animals, outdoors - they now access only through books. It's a disconnected, abstracted connection. The family has lost a shared narrative. And there's so much more to say about that.

But that's the absolute beauty of this film. It doesn't judge, it doesn't provide answers, it doesn't condemn, it sees both sides, and gives you the space to think about both. It's a film which says, there are no answers, only more talk.

And for me, I'm just so very grateful that it said, 'Your alternative family? It's fantastic.'

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