Some films just beggar description, and this is one of them. At its simplest, sure, it is about a family finding a way through tragedy. But there are layers and commentary that make this richer than that emotional core, set up by a very short exchange by way of Nabakov, though probably not what you’re thinking. In some oblique ways it also echos the sensibility of Hunt for the Wilderpeople, but the humor in this story is much more contained.
Viggo Mortensen (A Dangerous Method) leads the cast as a survivalist father raising six kids in the wilds of Washington state. His trademark intensity drives the story and his ability to put on the mantle of the script believably sells it well. George MacKay (Pride), as the oldest son, also navigates a challenging and sympathetic path. The rest of their tight-knit family are all very capable and get to show their abilities well.
The remaining cast of Kathryn Hahn (The Family Fang), Steve Zahn (Knights of Badassdom), Frank Langella (The Driftless Area), Ann Dowd (St. Vincent), Missi Pyle (Gone Girl), and Erin Moriarty (Jessica Jones) each add color. Each also brings a particular balance to the story with different points of view and types of interaction. Langella walks the toughest line of this group. I can’t say I ever find him sympathetic, but he imbues what could have been a stock character with just enough humanity to make him palatable.
Matt Ross, better known as an actor, took on the director and writer hats for this film. It was his sophomore outing in the chair and shows a solid control of both the story and taking on challenging filming issues, particularly through the first third of the story. With the critical success of this story, we’ll probably be seeing him tackle more projects and, on the strength of this tale, I’d be there to see what he has to say.