The Fundamentals of Caring is a Netflix original film. It’s a spirited and heartfelt tale about former writer, Ben (Paul Rudd), who gets a job as a caregiver for Trevor (Craig Roberts), a disabled teenager with a twisted sense of humour. Trevor suffers from a very rare condition called muscular dystrophy, which has left him physically impaired and wheelchair-bound as a result. His condition has made him cynical and hopeless, and he barely ever leaves his house. Ben decides to take Trevor on a road trip and the two of them form an unlikely friendship, whilst experiencing some harsh truths and emotional upheavals along the way.
The Fundamentals of Caring incorporates standard buddy drama and coming-of-age tropes, but the result is a film that is not as formulaic as I initially expected. This is mainly to do with Trevor, who starts out as very unlikable. He is introduced to us as obnoxious and petulant, seemingly in acceptance of his rather treacherous life.
He spends his time sitting indoors watching television all day, whilst his mother, Elsa (Jennifer Ehl), goes out to work. Although Trevor is obviously at a massive disadvantage compared to other people, he makes no attempt to change his situation. I found it interesting that the film diverts completely from most films’ tendency to present all disabled people as sympathetic victims. Trevor is not presented as frail and vulnerable; he has a taste for practical jokes, which seems to be his way of dealing with his situation.
Ben knows that Trevor’s isolated lifestyle is not good for him, so he manages to convince Trevor’s mother to allow him to take Trevor on a road trip. After much discussion, they hit the road and on the way, meet teenage runaway, Dot (Selena Gomez), who joins them on their trip. The former Disney star continues her avoidance of playing clean-cut characters, and Gomez does an okay job in the film, but she is hardly a formidable actress. However, Gomez and Roberts have great on-screen chemistry, and she shares some great moments with Paul Rudd too. Despite all being at different stages of their careers, the actors in their respective roles all glue together nicely in the film, which makes for a very enjoyable watch.
Also randomly thrown into the mix, is Peaches (Megan Ferguson), a pregnant woman they meet along the way. Despite her being a fairly enjoyable character, I didn’t see much need for her inclusion in the film. Her overall arc is predictable and she does not have much bearing on the development of the plot as a whole. The film is primarily concerned with the relationship between fathers and their children and noticeably, but not necessarily intentionally, mothers are pushed to the side.
One of the most interesting aspects of The Fundamentals Of Caring, is how much Trevor changes over the course of the film. He goes from greatly unlikable, to genuinely sympathetic and a character that is easy to root for. Having to face the unfortunate reality involving his own father, as well as the road trip itself, his attitude changes for the better.
Despite its light script and the fact that the film is initially difficult to get into, The Fundamentals of Caring is a solid film, with an interesting direction. The relationships between the characters are convincing and compelling. The characters are essentially what keeps you watching. Most importantly, the film will appeal to a wide audience but at is stands, you will only be able to watch the film on Netflix. The Fundamentals of Caring is a pleasant breakaway from the cluster of exhausting summer blockbusters.
Director: Rob Burnett
Writers: Rob Burnett (screenplay), Jonathan Evison (novel)
Stars: Craig Roberts, Paul Rudd, Selena Gomez
Run Time: 97 min
If you enjoy coming-of-age films, you might also be interested in reading some of my other reviews within the genre, which you can find here.