Michael Cooke’s Care & Repair is a comedy-drama that entertains from the first shot to the last. The adventures of three young men, instigated by only one of them, take the film on a smooth, and thoroughly claustrophobic, ride through its nineteen-minute runtime.
Neil (Hunter Bishop) and Stevie (Cooke), repairmen, are a well-matched pair of colleagues in their quiet efficiency. John (John Cooke), Neil’s hopelessly casual brother, is a squeeze-in that turns a well-oiled machine into a fragile system that could catch fire at any moment. The opening scene itself gives you a taste of this. Ten minutes late because of his onanistic pursuits while Neil and Stevie wait for him, John literally squeezes in between them in the van. What was a comfortable fit now barely fits all shoulders. The feeling of crampedness becomes a stubborn ghost that haunts the characters for the rest of their day.
When their boss, Geo (Duncan Airlie James) leaves them to a repair job in an old man’s (Perry Costello) house, the three struggle to function as a team. John, as easily delighted as he is irritated, not unlike a child, is a nuisance to work with. When the child finds a toy, he plays with it. And almost immediately makes it everyone else’s problem. Neil and Stevie, repairmen for very different problems, set down to fix the new situation so that no one goes to jail and everyone gets paid. The stakes are high, and the tone hilarious.
In every way, the film reinforces the lack of room. The frames are uncomfortably tight, the spaces are cramped, and there is little to no time. If Geo were to discover their crime, not only would they go to jail, but they would also not get paid. The anxiety at the prospect has the characters squirming and fidgeting in their spots with an urgency that worsens the viewer’s sense of claustrophobia. The minimal score is more in line with the dramatic aspect of the film than the comedic, heightening the anxiety of the situation, especially once Geo returns. Comedy and drama both get a boost when the old man’s daughter (Seylan Baxter) returns in the tiny post-credits scene.
Care & Repair executes an excellent balance between comedy and drama by maintaining a facade of seriousness through film language while John continues to exude ridiculousness in every word and gesture. What would have been a tense drama with only Stevie and Neil in it, is a farce with the addition of John. But then again, without John, there would be no drama in the first place.
Care & Repair: A Burdensome Brother and a Job Gone Wrong in Tense Dramedy