I really enjoyed The Fundamentals of Caring. A Netflix original, written and directed by Rob Burnett, it’s a sweet, quirky story, reminiscent of Little Miss Sunshine in its worldview. Despite the sarcasm and raw pain, there’a a refreshing lack of cynicism here: most people, it seems, are essentially okay. This is a film with neither heroes nor villains, just ordinary folk, getting by with all their flaws.
Coming so soon after Me Before You, another film about the relationship between a disabled person and a carer is bound to draw comparisons. But The Fundamentals of Caring manages to avoid a lot of the traps the more mainstream film falls into, largely by making Trevor (Craig Roberts) a convincing human being, defined by more than just his disability. He can be a bit of a shit, moody and truculent, contradictory and annoying. And so can everyone else. Dot (Selena Gomez) doesn’t kiss him because she feels sorry for him, nor because she admires him. She kisses him because she fancies him, because he’s “handsome and cool.” And, yeah, Ben (Paul Rudd) does find some redemption in his caring role; yeah, Trevor helps to ‘heal’ the able-bodied bloke. But the fact that this cliche is acknowledged makes it okay, I think: “I have no interest in saving you,” Trevor tells Ben, making clear that he will not be used this way. And, in the end, no one is really saved; they all just feel a little better about the crappy cards they’ve been dealt.
This is a funny film, with a number of successful running gags. Trevor’s repeated attempts to convince Ben that he’s dying might not sound like the stuff that jokes are made of, but they’re moments of silliness and tension that help ensure we stay on-side. So it’s a comedy about pain, a road-trip movie without much road, a buddy-movie without much buddying. And you know what? It’s really good. Watch it. See what you think.