The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)

“Yes, and I’m not an asshole. And since you want an asshole, my not being an asshole makes me more of an asshole than the assholes that you normally date, because they’re giving you exactly what you want, whereas I, by not being an asshole, am not. Which makes me an asshole.”

‘The Fundamentals of Caring’, directed by Rob Burnett in 2016, is an American comedy-drama. Paul Rudd plays Ben, a man who is starting in a career as a caregiver following a tragedy and the breakdown of his marriage. His first job is looking after an 18 year old boy called Trevor, played by Craig Roberts, who is suffering from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Trevor is an acerbic person with a caustic sense of humour and a streak of dark morbidity about his own limitations. His attitude masks a core of anxiety that ties him to his house and routine, but he is obsessed with local roadside attractions that he will never visit. Ben recognises this and encourages him on a road-trip to the attractions where they encounter a variety of characters and form a bond. It’s a low-budget movie that, as with most good road-trips, is as much about the inner world of the characters travelling as about the world outside. The humour is dark, but appropriately so, demystifying the disability of the main character and unpacking the emotional baggage carried by Ben. This film is a departure for Rudd who had been better known for broad and improvised comedies such as the ‘Anchorman’ films, or for his role in the comedy action movie ‘Ant-Man’. Here he plays a quiet, stoic carer who slowly and persistently breaks down the barriers between him and Trevor, and draws the teenager out into the world. The only jarring note in the film is the casting of an able-bodied actor as Trevor, an act that potentially undermines the humour and the liberating message of the film. Roberts is great in the role and perfectly conveys the physicality and wit of the character, but this movie treads a fine line because of his casting.

Would I recommend it? Yes – it’s a small movie but is unrelentingly sweet and good-natured with a strong line in black comedy. Watch in a double bill with ‘Wild Strawberries’ or ‘Nebraska’ for more examples of how a road-trip can mirror the human condition.

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