The Fundamentals of Caring—A Different Sort of Road Trip

Fundamentals of Caregiving

In this Netflix original film, The Fundamentals of Caring, (based upon Jonathan Evison’s novel,“The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving,) takes us on a road trip with a sullen teenager, Trevor (the disingenous Craig Roberts), confined to a wheelchair with muscular dystrophy. His loving and overprotective mother– divorced and struggling with career and parental responsibilities—sequesters her son at home where he watches soap operas all day, bored out of his mind.

Along comes a writer wannabe (Paul Rudd), Ben, who is a freshly minted caregiver, desperately looking for a change in his life after suffering a horrific personal tragedy. Trevor’s mother reluctantly hires him after her son shows a fondness for his style, even though Ben lacks any experience or references.

Both Trevor and Ben share a fear of moving on with their lives and seeing their place in the world. The two embark on a bizarre road trip seeing sites like the world’s deepest pit, something the viewer can only imagine in a snow globe or other kitschy tourist souvenir.

Along the way they meet a young abandoned girl, Dot, trying to get to Denver ( a strong performance by Selena Gomez) and a pregnant women trying to get home before her baby arrives (excellent Megan FergusonThe road trip clinches the change in both of them.

The Fundamentals of Caring is a well-crafted, well-acted comedy-drama without predictability or cliche and  remains, at its core, a heartwarming story to watch, a solid choice even for family viewing.

 

 

 

“The Night Of”—A Tale of Darkness

 

"The Night Of" HBO series

“The Night Of” HBO series

In the mini-series “The Night Of,” currently on HBO, the opening scene showcases a mysterious and beautiful young woman who dies and someone goes to trial. Will justice prevail?

“The Night Of” combines elements of the popular podcast “Serial”’ and the  TV series“Oz”. “The Night Of” depicts the horrific conditions endured by Naz Khan on Ryker’s Island, reminding the viewer of “Oz”. And half-truths and damning evidence suggest the Serial podcast about a young Pakistani American teenager, Adnan Syed. Did he or didn’t he—that is the question in both. Both the real-life Adnan and the fictional Naz maintain their innocence, even as more distressing details of the crime surface.

Naz Khan (played by Riz Ahmed from “Nightcrawler”) is a young Pakistani American student charged with the murder of the mysterious young woman from the opening scene. Detective Sergeant Box   (the superb Bill Camp, Tony winner for the Broadway revival of “The Crucible”) charges Naz. A bottom-feeding, grizzled lawyer named Jack Stone (the astonishing John Turturro) is Naz’s legal counsel.

Turturro plays a smarter-than-he-looks lawyer: part-Columbo, part-Monk detective. He’s quirky and wry, his physical awkwardness, and his long trench coat make him as memorable as the more well-known Columbo and Monk. As Jack Stone, he picks at the eczema on his feet with a chopstick as he interviews witnesses and waits to appear in court. Layers of financial and psychological costs are embedded in a justice and penal system Naz and his parents do not know how to navigate. Naz pays the price of not knowing.

We see Naz transform. At first a virginal, studious young man who is naïve and eager, we see his vulnerability preyed upon. We witness Naz feeling cornered, bewildered, and terrified.

“The Night of” features spellbindingly subtle acting with pitch-perfect poignancy and desperation on the part of Riz Ahmed, and steely determination and grit from both John Turturro and Bill Camp, equally matched as dueling seekers of justice.

The connective tissue holding together the evidence both for and against Naz constantly shifts the viewer’s assessment of his guilt or innocence. This dark tale is addictive, deeply moving, compulsive television!

Note: The late James Gandolfini (of “Sopranos” fame) produced “The Night Of” and was intended to be the character Jack Stone.

“The Tunnel” — Turf War or Building Bridges?

The Tunnel .

The Tunnel

This British-French bilingual thriller is a PBS television series, adapted from the 2011 Danish/Swedish crime series “The Bridge” [also remade as a 2013 American Fox series with a Mexican/American police team]. Hans Rosenfeldt, the original creator, develops this British-French version, renamed “The Tunnel”,  as well.

“The Tunnel” stars Stephen Dillane (of “Game of Thrones” fame) as British policeman Karl Roebuck and Clémence Poésy (from “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”) as French policewoman Elise Wassermann. The mismatched detectives must work together to find a killer who has left the upper-half of a woman politician’s  body on the French side of the Channel Tunnel and the lower-half of another woman’s body on the UK side.

The murderer soon is revealed as a serial killer –nicknamed “TT” for “Truth Terrorist”– who is on a moral crusade. TT’s mission is to wreak vengeance for social injustices: particularly, the abolition of rights for immigrants and the poor, institutional mistreatment of the elderly, warehousing the mentally ill, jailing protesters rioting against government policies, and exploiting children. The “Truth Terrorist” revels maniacally in his own moral superiority. Forcing Roebuck and Wasserman into an uneasy partnership, the series of crimes involves ever more ingenious and horrific methods to underscore the moral bankruptcy of modern society.

“The Tunnel”, however, is more than a dramatic police thriller about fighting crime. The dualities of culture and personality, people divided by politics and history, are fascinating to watch for their layers of complexity. The uneasy chemistry between Roebuck and Wasserman are a metaphor for the cultural gap and ideological boundaries separating all of us: the powerful from the powerless, and the self-interest and turf-war conflicts between nations. “The Tunnel” is novelistic storytelling at its best!