“The Road Within” is the bizarre road trip of the year. Packing three dysfunctional teenagers into a confined space for a long period of time is bound to cause turmoil. After the passing of his mother, Vincent (Robert Sheehan), who suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome, embarks on a road trip to spread his mother’s ashes. Accompanying him is the sarcastic Marie (Zoe Kravitz) who is battling anorexia, and the British Alex (Dev Patel), a germaphobe who struggles with OCD. The three decide to flee from an experimental clinic and drive to the ocean with Dr. Mia Rose (Kyra Sedgwick) and Vincent’s insensitive father, Robert (Robert Patrick) hot on the trail. The indie film is squeamish, despondent, uplifting, comical and overall offbeat.
Prominent films depicting Tourette’s Syndrome lack in number. Perhaps one of the most recognized features is 2008’s “Front of the Class,” the true story about a man’s journey to become a teacher despite suffering from Tourette’s Syndrome. In “The Road Within,” director Gren Wells makes it clear what the audience is in for from the opening scene. Vincent sits anxiously in a church during his mother’s funeral trying tremendously hard to hold in his tics. Eventually, his efforts fail, and while the minister is delivering a eulogy, Vincent blurts out, “Shut up you f***ing pedophile,”amongst other things. From the start, Vincent displays innocence, even if his words say otherwise. Everything from his pure green eyes to his timid demeanor expresses an inner child struggling with a terrible disease.
Needless to say, these actors have clearly done their research. Tourette’s Syndrome is a disorder arduous to portray, but Sheehan depicts Vincent’s struggle realistically and admirably. Kravitz lost twenty pounds for her role, shrinking to a mere ninety pounds by sticking to a straight diet of pureed vegetables and clay. Her character, Marie, is hollow but shows sparks of life every so often. However, the standout performance by Dev Patel cannot go unnoticed. Patel exposes how lost his character Alex truly is, burdened with the constant slamming of doors and inability to touch others. All three of them are outcasts who bond over their every day battles. At one point, Vincent tells Marie, “My brain is broken but all you have to do is eat something.” This is a prime example of how wrongly these disorders can be interpreted.
The film’s downfall is that there aren’t any lingering emotions. Moments that have the potential to be tear-jerking are soon masked by dark laughter. There’s not enough time to sympathize. At times when Vincent clashes with his father, it is almost too forced, lacking any chemistry between the two actors as father and son. The relationship between Dr. Mia Rose and Vincent’s father is rather indecisive. Dr. Rose’s background is never discussed and her compassion for her patients is nullified by the fact that she never once calls the cops to find them. Even the score goes rather unnoticed and it’s much needed considering it would facilitate the impact certain scenes have on viewers.
The film is a remake of the 2010 German drama “Vincent Wants to Sea,” which received raving reviews. Written and directed by rookie Gren Wells, “The Road Within” needs more depth, but the stellar performances of the actors carry the film. “The Road Within” is currently playing in selected theaters but is available on iTunes and Amazon instant video.
Sammi Brennan can be reached at Samantha.Brennan@spartans.ut.edu.