The Fundamentals of Caring – Rob Burnett, 2016, 15
Netflix rates it: 5/5
I rate it: 4.5/5
Recently added to Netflix and advertised as a ‘Netflix original’ film, The Fundamentals of Caring gives a look into the life of newly-qualified caregiver Ben (Paul Rudd) as he gets to grips with taking care of muscular dystrophy sufferer Trevor (Craig Roberts). A grieving father himself, it becomes important for Ben to show Trevor that he can still live his life, and is capable of leaving the house and having a good time. Embarking on a tour of obscure US landmarks, the crowning glory of which is ‘The World’s Deepest Pit,’ Ben attempts to show Trevor the joys of life. After picking up Dot (Selena Gomez), a young girl attempting to hitchhike, Trevor seems more invested in the trip, and succeeds in impressing Dot. Add in the stranded, pregnant Peaches (Megan Ferguson) to complete the gang and you have an entertaining group of characters!
The acting is a joy to watch, with Roberts bringing a comedic element to a film with a serious issue at the heart of it. He and Rudd work so well together; the development of their characters’ friendship is portrayed in a natural and emotive way, and it’s enjoyable to watch. Gomez brings a confident, fun edge to Dot, whilst maintaining a realistic hidden vulnerability brought about later on in the film. It’s interesting to see Rudd and Gomez in roles so different to the ones they usually play, and impressive to see them portraying them so successfully. Jennifer Ehle (who plays Trevor’s mother, Elsa) captures the worried, overworked mother role perfectly as well. Such a strong cast is certainly one of the best things about The Fundamentals of Caring.
The positive storyline is immersive, focusing more on what Trevor is still capable of achieving with his disability rather than on the unachievable things he is incapable of tackling. Additionally, there are plenty of laugh out loud moments, taking the edge off what could be considered a dark subject matter, and making it easy to stay hooked throughout the entire 97-minute run time. Many criticisms of The Fundamentals of Caring comment on the fact that there are plenty of ‘lesson learning’ films already out there, so another one is just the same old story. However, in this film there seems to be more of a sense of growth rather than a simple change of actions due to learning a life lesson; the characters are not completely changed for the better by the end, but that’s okay because it’s clear there has been some development thanks to the events experienced.
Although The Fundamentals of Caring clearly uses plenty of typical indie movie tropes, the characters seem so genuine it’s hard not to enjoy the film. Besides, it isn’t typical in every sense; one of the main goals is to get Trevor to pee standing up, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen that as a goal in a film! The unusual tour of obscure landmarks is also a refreshing concept, as opposed to the usual road trip to somewhere more well-known. With great characters played by talented actors and an enjoyable, if not entirely novel, plot, The Fundamentals of Caring is not a film to be missed.