It’s all too often that narratives about persons with physical and mental disabilities are kept away from the mainstream. Their humanity, sexuality, inner conflicts, and basic dignities are often passed over for the tales of the able bodied.
I have to be honest, when I first saw the trailer for The Fundamentals of Caring I was dubious about the prospect of a film where the abled protagonist’s job is to take life lessons from meeting a physically handicapped person who has almost zero interior inner life. I mean, one can just glean this shit from the preview: A cranky sarcastic wheelchair-bound boy who is only able to fully bloom when he taken under the wing of some emotionally damaged person who by the end of the film is whole. Kind of a like a manic pixie dream girl, but you know, angry and on wheels.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that The Fundamentals of Caring had more substance than that. Is it a little hokey? Sure. The film has got its sentimental moments and tear-jerking tricks. But it goes deeper than the surface (as much as it can for a film where none of the named characters have last names) with some noteworthy performances, and chuckle-inducing one-liners.
Paul Rudd plays Ben, a man reeling from a personal tragedy who takes the job of a caregiver. His very first position is with an 18-year-old Trevor (Craig Roberts) with muscular dystrophy. Trevor plays some pretty great pranks, has a wicked sense of humour, but is dubious about leaving the house and expanding his culinary repertoire. The film doesn’t shy away from the logistics of their relationship — Ben is responsible for the bodily functions of Trevor and there are scenes in the bathroom, in other words, the shit is not relegated to the offstage.
When Ben and Trevor have a no-holds-barred fight, they decide to go on an impromptu road trip where they meet Dot played by Selena Gomez. Gomez does a great job playing a shoot-from-the-hip clove cigarette-smoking hitchhiker. The merry band of travellers expands even more when they find Peaches (Megan Ferguson) a very pregnant down-and-out wife of a soldier trying to make her way to her mother’s house. She’s kind of like a human love vacuum, we know very little about her, yet she is somehow just always happy to be where she is.
All four take to the road, and in so doing, are inevitably changed forever. All share their joys, triumphs, fears, and love on a journey to visit the “Deepest Pit” America has to offer.
Surprisingly witty, not too cloyingly sweet, and undeniably charming, The Fundamentals of Caring is film that reminds us all to challenge ourselves, our perceptions, and that sometimes the best thing you can do for a person is tell them to fuck off.