This road movie is unlike any of its kind, promising to be a fitting experience for viewers during the COVID quarantine who struggle with isolation or bereavement. The themes of parenthood and healing shine through. A lighthearted comedy, it delivers a realistic depiction of human suffering and invites reflections on what serendipitous encounters in life offer in our healing and reconciliation.
After losing his young son to a fatal accident caused by his own unparked vehicle, Ben (Paul Rudd) has lived in a distraught state for three years. His Seattle-based writing career stalled, landing him on a caregiving certificate program. The six-week training drilled the fundamentals “ALOHA”—Ask, Listen, Observe, Help, Ask Again—into his mind. That mind was still living with flashbacks of the accident, disabling Ben to fully engage with people around him.
His first caregiving job, to Ben’s own surprise, is to care for young adult Trevor (Craig Roberts) who has been suffering from severe muscular dystrophy, a disorder that impairs his mobility but leaves his mind sharp. From day one, their mutual brokenness is laid bare: Ben learns from Trevor’s mother that the young man is not likely to survive another 10 years; Trevor knows about how the writer’s young son died in an accident.
Initially, Ben applies much patience into coping with this quick-tongued, prank-prone, and sardonic teenager. With the passing of time, Paul notices two things about Trevor. First, although his weekly routines have been much confined to the home and the park, Trevor has a passion for America’s roadside attractions. Second, the fact that his own father left after his diagnosis seems to be a key cause of Trevor’s withering self-identity. While caring for Trevor, Ben’s fatherly sensitivities gradually return. He begins to plan a road trip for Trevor to see his favorite roadside attraction. On this trip, Trevor’s yearnings for life become broadened, and he even asks to see his father in Salt Lake City.
The road trip gets longer than Ben has initially planned. They also pick up a young hitchhiking girl, Dot (Selena Gomez), and a woman in her late weeks of pregnancy, Elsa (Jennifer Ehle). The four develop genuine friendships and compassion for each other’s lives as they travel together through the good and the bad, through difficult and healing experiences.
This movie is about a most unusual journey of healing. The caregiver is a bereaved father whose life is broken with tragedy and lingering guilt. In a most unexpected place, life gives him another son-like figure to care for. It is amazing to watch how healing can begin and take its course even when two broken lives meet, maybe because of the hard truths that dwell in our brokenness. The road trip brings about a full-on clash of hard truths in Ben and Trevor’s relationship. While they realize each other’s brokenness, and their inability to fix each other, the true healing has just begun.
Content warning: This movie is Rated TV-MA for sexual language and profanity. (Netflix)