Captain Fantastic

This tale of alternative parenting meets the real world follows on from the previous review. Two heartwarming movies in a row, it’s almost as if the world isn’t a dumpster fire. Matt Ross’s movie has Viggo Mortensen as the father raising his children away from civilisation. They read Jared Diamond, practice self defence and celebrate the birthday of Noam Chomsky. The death of their mother forces them onto a road trip however, and thus an inevitable clash of values with conventional society.

The script is intelligent and sharp, and carefully nuanced. While it could be seen as a straightforward capitalist vs alternative society struggle, the film is keen to portray neither side as wholly evil or virtuous. Mortensen brings the right mix of dictator, and sympathetic father to the role, but it is the children who own the film. They are all charming, believable and marvellous.

It is a movie that all parents will identify with ultimately, the struggles are smaller, less ideological, but we have all fought that battle between the ideals we had of parenting prior to the arrival of children, and the hard reality that follows. To what extent do you tell the truth, impart your own beliefs, bend to the wishes of the wider family and society? We might not give our children the freshly cut heart of a slain animal to eat, but hey, we wrestle with the social subtexts of the Disney channel.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Comedies often seem to fall into two categories: gross out ones (for whom penis/testicle sucking is the apotheosis of humour) and non-comedies (for whom a knowing wry curl of the lip is the equivalent of the guffaw). Wilderpeople is nearer the latter category, but has genuine laughs – imagine Wes Anderson but with added comedy. Directed by Taika Waititi, who is part of the NZ Flight of the Conchords team and directed the excellent What We Do In the Shadows, it continues the same vein of good natured idiots fumbling through an equally dumb world. In this case it is the young Ricky, who goes on the run with his “uncle”, the grizzled Sam Neill, in the NZ bush.

The scenery provides a verdant backdrop to the bumbling manhunt, led by the inept Rachel House with her mindless “no child left behind” motto. There is an inevitable Goodnight Mr Tom narrative, as the curmudgeonly Neill comes to accept the unrelenting optimism of his young charge. But although it plays the heartwarming card to good effect, it’s never schmaltzy or sentimental. A decent comedy has been a rare find in 2016, and you think we’d need them now more than ever.