A Special Needs Road Trip (Film Review: “The Fundamentals of Caring”)

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A funny and touching story of the relationship between a challenging young patient and his emotionally broken caregiver. Can you say A.L.O.H.A?

SnapShot Plot

The Fundamentals of Caring is a Netflix Original Film that may seem a bit mainstream for a Norma’s Streaming Pick, but the buzz on this movie persuaded me to give it a chance. And anything starring Paul Rudd is worth a shot. As usual, Netflix knew what they were doing in this charming bromance/road movie. And who would have thunk it that America’s Sweetheart, Selena Gomez would bring the grit to the party?

Welsh actor, Craig Roberts hits it out of the park as Trevor, a quixotic paraplegic whose rigidly routine life with his mother (the wonderfully prickly Jennifer Ehle) is about to take a turn toward spontaneity when his new (inexperienced) caregiver, Ben (Paul Rudd) enters his claustrophobic world. Ben himself is struggling with his own emotional paralysis, basically sleep-walking through his days and going through the motions of the standard caregiver course (where the acronym ALOHA is explained). As Ben’s tragic backstory is slowly revealed in the movie – with plenty of light and clever moments thrown in for levity –  it becomes a kind of lengthening cord that finally entwines caregiver and patient in a deep, yet complex bond.

 

Parting Shot

Written and directed by Rob Burnett and based on the book by Jonathan Evison (The Revised Fundamentals of Caring), the film could have sunk into a sentimental, derivative slop bowl, a predictable weepy marketed next to a box of Kleenex. Instead – due to a tight, clever script and wonderfully nuanced performances by its ensemble cast – The Fundamentals of Caring breathes fresh air into an old Hollywood Nurse/Patient trope. If anything, the comparisons will be with the superb French comedy, The Intouchables (reviewed for Norma’s Streaming Picks in Nov. 2014) Neither film warrants or invites pity for the main character or the caregiver; indeed the sarcastic humor between them is the glue that makes the budding friendship that much more believable and real.

Casting Note: Kudos to you if you spotted the wonderful Bobby Cannavale in an uncredited bit part at the end of the story. Love those little surprises…..

 

The Fundamentals of Caring is presently streaming only on Netflix.

YouTube Trailer Courtesy of:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSXn-lIs4Y0

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