Netflix releases a lot of movies. Combined with the TV shows and other classics that are uploaded to the site daily, it’s not surprising that a lot of the gems on Netflix don’t get to shine as brightly as they should. That was the case with The Fundamentals of Caring. After being available to view for almost two years, as well as being missed by me on multiple occasions, decided to finally watch it. However, was it a hidden gem?
The Fundamentals of Caring follows Ben Benjamin (Paul Rudd): a man who is suffering an unfathomable amount of loss. In this dark time, Ben decides to become a care-giver, and is hired to look after Trevor (Craig Roberts), a sufferer of muscular dystrophy.
It all seems rather poetic that a man who can’t help himself is healed by helping others, but this movie is about so much more than that. Ben builds relationships with people because he is open to helping and loving everyone.
As Ben and Trevor develop their bond, they decide to go on a road trip, meeting many people on their travels. One of those people is Dot (Selena Gomez), a teenager who is hitchhiking her way to college. She’s feisty, she’s quick witted, and Trevor is in love with her.
It’s obvious that the bond between Dot and Trevor is puppy love. Dot, after having a less than happy family life, just wants to feel something other than neglect. Trevor wants to feel something different, and that’s exactly what Dot is: new.
Their relationship isn’t allowed to bloom as nicely as it could have, being cut off in the climax. Despite the abruptness of its end, it feels natural, rather than being dragged out for half an hour longer than it needed to be. It was a fling, and that’s how it ended.
Ben becomes surrogate father to these youths as they travel around the USA, providing them with love they never had, and love he never had the privilege of giving. This dynamic really acts as a calling card throughout the entire movie: as soon as it starts to drift off, the viewer is pulled back into Rudd’s cheeky charms, and were reminded why Trevor and Dot are so willing to hang out with someone twice their senior.
But not everything is fun and games. Ben has a tragic backstory that really helps to loop everything together: his son had died in a car accident. His bond with Trevor and his protectiveness over Dot is explained as soon as the third and final road trip member, Peaches, gives birth at the World’s Deepest Pit.
As Ben is helping to deliver her baby, he is bombarded by flashbacks of his lost son. This scene is Ben’s repentance: he has taken life (albeit, accidentally) but he has also brought life into the world. His love for everyone around him, as well as himself, has blossomed to a place where he can get out of his rut and live his life in honour of his kid, rather than because of him.
It’s not often that a Netflix movie is as profound and unusual as this one. It’s unlikely that they ever produce more than fluff to fill some gaps. But The Fundamentals of Caring wasn’t just fluff. It told a story that was heartbreaking, hilarious, self-deprecating, crude and soul-bearing. It felt as though the actors weren’t just acting: they were revealing who they truly were, quiet and lumpy and angry and imperfect.
This movie is a perfect example of true life. It’s over exaggerated, yes: but it’s also a caricature of how life can work out. All of these people have their problems, but they work together to help solve them. It’s teamwork, but in the best way.
Netflix is full of surprises. Along with the fluff and the silly rom-coms and unrealistic science fiction movies, they can create little slices of well thought out, well crafted and overall just gooey-in-the-middle kinds of movies.
If you’re looking for a movie, but don’t know what to watch; watch this. If you’re sad; watch this. If you need to fall asleep to a movie; watch this. Just know, that this movie deserves to be enjoyed by everyone, because it’s thoroughly enjoyable in itself.