Reviewing: The Fundamentals of Caring

Fundamentals of CaringOkay, so it’s been a while since I first seen this movie when it came on Netflix but I just feel like I have to talk about it.

The Fundamentals of Caring, is an off-beat, feel-good story about a man who becomes a caretaker for a teenager with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Ben, the caretaker, is new to the caregiving gig and Trevor, his charge, has fun messing around with him throughout his very rigid daily routine. Eventually, Ben decides to take Trevor on a trip to see various roadside attractions across the United States in order to help him embrace life and gain confidence despite his disability. In turn, Ben’s perspective on life is altered by Trevor as well along the way.

Oh my gosh, I loved this movie so much. It’s one of those really surprising movies that have just the right amount of dark grief and positive plot line that just always makes me grateful for life. The Fundamentals of Caring reminds me a lot of movies like Little Miss Sunshine and Hector and the Search for Happiness, if that gives you any indication. (Also, if you haven’t seen either of those movies, you need to watch them as soon as possible … after you watch this one first, of course.)

*Spoilers ahead.

The Fundamentals of Caring starts out with Ben, who is finishing his training to become a professional caregiver. Ben is also dealing with his own grief over losing a young son while also avoiding inevitable divorce papers from his wife. He meets Trevor and his mother who have recently moved to the United States. Trevor immediately begins pranking Ben with a mix of self-deprecation, anger and standoffishness, yet there is an undercurrent of humor in all of his actions.

I had just read (or was about to finish reading) Me Before You when we watched this movie, and I have to say that a lot of things were so similar between these two stories. In both, the charges attempt to scare off caregivers brought in by their families against their wishes. And in both stories, the caregivers take their charges on adventures to help them realize the importance and possibilities life holds.

However, Me Before You has a much different tone to it, because it is about an adult who has lost the ability to do anything for himself. This movie is about a teenager which is such an interesting story because Trevor doesn’t really know much about the world outside of his wheelchair and medicines.

I really loved how the story explores this topic. It all culminates in a date that Trevor has with Dot, a young woman who is hitchhiking her way to Denver and ends up tagging along on the adventure. There are a few wonderful scenes where Trevor asks Dot on a date and they walk across the street to diner and have a simple date. The scene is so delicate and artfully done that you can really feel the gravity of the situation for Trevor.

However, I do have some issues with Dot. More so, I have some issues with Selena Gomez’s acting. I really love Dot’s character — her brashness, smart mouth and confidence — I just don’t think Gomez was the right choice. You could tell that she was putting everything she could into the character, but she just never fully got there for me. But this in no way takes away from the movie at all, and she did a great job in her reaction to meeting Trevor’s dad.

The threesome also picks up a stranded, pregnant woman named Peaches. I thought it was a bit random that they picked up someone else along the way, and I was really suspicious of her the whole time (like, I thought she might rob them or something.) But, she does end up serving a very powerful, symbolic part toward the end when here baby is born. Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts were fantastic in this movie. They are such skilled actors, especially in playing such deep, emotional parts.

This movie was based on a book, The Revised Fundamentals of Caring by Jonathan Evison. And while I have said that I wish filmmakers would get away from creating adaptations — and I stand behind this — this is one of those unique instances where adaptations are important. I had never heard about this book before and doubt I ever would have if an adaptation hadn’t been made.

I really only have good things to say about this movie. It addresses such involved emotions and how we learn and grow in our handling of seemingly insurmountable situations. It is a story about friendship, acceptance, love and confidence. And it really will just make you feel good.

I give this movie five full-fledged stars and would encourage you all to see it as soon as possible, and return to it when you need some reaffirmation that life is good.

What did you think about The Fundamentals of Caring? What do you think about its treatment of issues such as grief and disability? What roadside attractions would you want to visit? Let’s talk. 

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