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The Fundamentals of Caring (2016) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

FUNDAMENTALS OF CARING

Director: Rob Burnett
Writers: Rob Burnett (screenplay),  Jonathan Evison (novel)
Stars: Craig Roberts,  Paul Rudd,  Selena Gomez

When I saw this was available on Netflix as a “Netflix Original” I have to admit I didn’t really think this movie would be any good.

Paul Rudd plays Ben Benjamin, a man whose life is a mess with his wife handing over the divorce papers for him to sign and a tragedy involving his young son from years previously. To deal with his loss Ben decides to take a six week course and become a home help (carer). His first assignment is Trevor (Craig Roberts). Trevor and his Mum Elsa (Jennifer Ehle) are from England and have recently moved to the States for a new life.

At first Elsa is hesitant to give Ben the job, due to his lack of experience, but agrees on a trial run. Trevor has a repetitive routine every day, as the job and relationship develops Ben gets a way to challenge Trevor to move out of his safe zone and get out and experience some way of life.

The opportunity to “do something” comes when Elsa has to go off for a week on a business trip, Ben convinces her (after a lot of thought) and Trevor they can take a road trip to see many of the things that Trevor has only saw from within the four walls in his home on TV and the Internet.

Trevor has Muscular Dystrophy meaning he has a shortened life and deals with this with sarcasm to hide his fears and disappointments. In a way, Trevor and Ben have very much in common as both are afraid to get on with their lives and carry a lot of emotional and mental baggage around.

It has to be said that the chemistry between the two characters is just perfect. Roberts holds his own against the brilliant and more experienced Rudd and I sense both actors enjoyed working together. From very early on Ben and Trevor relationship is getting to know each other and it’s at this point we see Trevor working out what pushes Ben’s buttons. There are some really funny sequences at the beginning of their relationship where Trevor is driving Ben insane (the toilet scenes especially) but as the movie moves on both of them begin to understand each other’s fears, worries and needs.

Paul Rudd is more famous for his comic roles in like Anchorman, Friends and recently in Marvel’s Antman. However, Ben is grief stricken and Rudd manages to portray Ben’s suffering and what he’s going through. It is these scenes that shows Rudd’s brilliant acting range.

I wasn’t familiar with Craig Roberts’ work. After researching his career to date I noticed he had a small role in 22 Jump Street and nothing that really stand out which surprised me. This movie shows us the range Roberts has as an actor and the potential he has going forward in his career. His portrayal of Trevor gave the character a sense of humanity, vulnerability and a very wicked sense of humour. Roberts reminded me a lot of Martin Freeman and the lead singer with the Arctic Monkeys Alex Turner in looks.

The Fundamentals of Caring is a great feel good movie and much of this is because of the writing from Rob Burnett who also directs this movie. Burnett can’t claim all the credit though as the story is based on a novel by Jonathan Evison.

The cinematography (Giles Nuttgens) is typical of most indie movies, simple, standard and a little predictable. The score (Ryan Miller) is alright in certain scenes and adds layers to the movie. One thing I will say though is the score isn’t memorable.

The Fundamentals of Caring is a very strong roadtrip movie that left me very impressed and wanting more from the characters who I felt had great chemistry and where to an extent, fleshed out. Well worth seeing and above all, makes you CARE about the characters.

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