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if you are a father, be warned: if you have all your senses together, you will feel poorly equipped for your role after watching this. Viggo Mortensen is the loving, intellectual, practical, funny, strict, unwavering man you strive to be but are incompetent to become. He holds together his generously numbered family (I lost count how many children) after his wife is hospitalised. This creates two parts, one of which is considerably better than the other. I assume the script was developed around the idea of “hipster father trains his children in the woods to become brain soldiers”, and that section is brilliantly played and conceived. Challenging his kids’ intellects and bodies, celebrating Noam Chomsky day, hunting deer, establishing dress codes for various occasions (not naked at dinner) is both hilarious and inspiring. You may not feel affection for all his efforts to create a mini platoon of anti-capitalists, but you have to honour the result: a bunch of bright minds that are advanced enough to challenge even the foundation on which their family has been established (including the decision to enter the establishment by way of fancy university degree).

When the film moves into the second part, with father and kids leaving their camp and entering civilisation in order to face the real life in which their mother and wife has been sick, the film loses a bit of its steam. The father is confronted with the limits of his influence on that outside world, the kids are confronted with a number of things they have not been taught (like kissing girls). Maybe it is because a character like the one depicted by the ever-brilliant Viggo  Mortensen is more impressive when seen in isolation, and appears to be more clownesque when put in the hostile environment that is the American middle class. Maybe just because the mission they are on does not provide for enough substance to make that part as interesting as the beginning.

Whatever the reason for me being less enthusiastic about the road movie part may be, all in all this is thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring. I am not surprised it did not burn the box office, but I am sure it has and will retain a passionate following, if only because of the “Full Frontal Viggo” completists (“It’s a penis. Every man has one.”)

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