Film

Craig Roberts: "Innocence has been stripped from cinema"

The Fundamentals of Caring star Craig Roberts on the lack of diversity in British cinema, and why we are "always coming of age"

Craig Roberts shot to fame in Richard Ayoade’s Submarine and has since starred in Being Human, Skins and Amazon series Red Oaks. Last year, the 25-year-old Welshman made his directorial debut with Just Jim. In his latest film, The Fundamentals of Caring, he plays Trevor, who has muscular dystrophy, alongside Paul Rudd as his carer, and pop pixie Selena Gomez, who plays a runaway they find on a bizarre road trip.

The Big Issue: What are the fundamentals of The Fundamentals of Caring?

Craig Roberts: I would say it’s a coming-of-age movie, on the basis that it’s these two guys going through something and they learn a lot from each other on this road trip.

When you think of coming-of-age tales you tend to think of adolescents. Are you never too old to ‘come of age’?

Nobody ever gets to a point in their life where they go, I know everything, I’m now bowing out. You’re constantly learning stuff and absorbing knowledge, so you’re always coming of age.

Do you feel more responsibility playing a character dealing with muscular dystrophy?

Completely. If I didn’t acknowledge that it would be insane. It made me feel that my small anxieties about life are pretty petty. But the film is a comedy, not based on the illness but on two people finding light in the dark. It’s great that a movie has so much warmth and so much humour and has a message. That’s an ideal package for a movie.

With Paul Rudd and Selena Gomez – and yourself – the film has quite a Hollywood cast for a subject films don’t often cover.

Paul Rudd is so likable. Every scene with him I was constantly awake because I knew at any point he’s going to throw in an improvised line. He’s so quick and smart. And with Selena Gomez too, I look like a competition winner amongst them.

The film is being released on Netflix – is it good to have different distribution outlets for something that might be squeezed out of cinemas by blockbusters?

It is crazy how much online platforms changed everything. It’s a very accessible movie. You feel warm and happy by the end and a lot of movies don’t really hold to that any more. The innocence has been slightly stripped from cinema. We’re so cynical and everyone has an opinion for the sake of having an opinion.

You’re constantly learning stuff and absorbing knowledge, so you’re always coming of age

You’re working on your second film as a director. Are you trying to restore some innocence?

I learned a lot directing my first film. I was slightly frustrated with British cinema. I think it has a lot to do with the class system to be honest. It’s very clear that we have two strong genres of movies in the UK, working class in a council estate social realist or period dramas in a mansion like Downton Abbey, and there’s not too much in between.

Who would have thought British people are obsessed by class?

We have a lot of great film-makers but while there is a big thing about diversity in film, period dramas restrict that immediately so I don’t know why they’re being made all the time. American movies offer total escapism – Taxi Driver or King of Comedy or Punch Drunk Love or There Will Be Blood – they’re not trying to be social realist, they’re just movies.

The Fundamentals of Caring is on Netflix

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