Directed: Gren Wells
Writer: Florian David Fitz, Gren Wells
Starring: Robert Sheehan, Dev Patel, Zoë Kravitz
Trivia: Robert Sheehan had the help of Jackson Kramer, the spokesperson for the Tourettes Society of America, preparing for the role.
Road trip movies are often times the most freeing. There’s something about them that is automatically feel-good, even while there’s anxiety to be had and hurdles to jump over.
The only difficult part, however, is trying to make light of serious issues. David O. Russell was able to do that to a certain degree in Silver Linings Playbook, and succeeded where others may have not.
On the other hand, it can be argued that Playbook, just as an example, is too much of a simplification of mental illnesses and this is exactly what writer/director Gren Wells struggles with in The Road Within while still being able to deliver a feel-good film that’s heartwarming in many respects.
The Road Within deserves praises just for the fact that it is a movie where mental health and “normal” life are being discussed. It is an attempt to remove the stigma on mental health and show us that beyond the psychological challenges those people face there are human beings with similar emotions dreams and desires as we all have.
The Road Within is a road trip with a twist. It is based on a German movie from 2010 (Vincent Want the Sea) but in this indie movie the focus is not really on the mental disorders but on acceptance, the disorders are a means to get the point across.
Vincent (Robert Sheehan) suffers from Tourette syndrome, which causes involuntary physical and verbal tics. After his mother dies, his father sends him to live in a psychological health clinic to help him control his symptoms. Subsequently, he and fellow patients Marie (Zoe Kravitz) and Alex (Dev Patel) escape the clinic and go on a road trip together.
The story is a conventional one at best; we know where the film is headed from the very beginning. We’re not anticipating the story as much as we are observing the character’s flaws, and the actors themselves.
Sheehan is extremely convincing as both a Tourettes sufferer and American, both of which he is not in real life. His British accent is completely masked by his unparalleled impersonations of various tics and mannerisms. If it were anyone else playing the part of Vincent, this would have been a completely different movie and not in a good way.
Zoë plays Marie, who is a severe anorexic, with a tough exterior but knows when to let the emotion through.
Of all the performances, however, it is Dev Patel that steals the screen as “clean freak” Alex. He is on the receiving end of constant teasing from Marie, but through all of his mundane routines, his solemn heart shines through and makes him undeniably likeable.
The lead cast (Sheehan, Patel, and Kravitz) give full-bodied performances. Without their rich character nuances and portrayals, the film would have been entirely lacking. Through Sheehan, Patel, and Kravitz, we see characters struggling to come to terms with themselves as people as well as their disorders and lives.
They each play at the nuances of their characters and use all the subtlety to emerge as three-dimensional characters. The trio have great chemistry and their budding friendship is believable and becomes most welcome midway through after all the kinks of their differing personalities have been sorted.
Sometimes, certain character actions seem rash or contrived and create more drama than is particularly necessary, but at least the actors rise to their roles enormously well and perhaps make the film more enjoyable.
If you’re looking for an inspiring road trip movie about a group of friends experiencing life’s highs and lows, this is not it, however, if you desire a sentimental film which deals with heavy issues it does deserve applauses.
Verdict 3.5/5 Stars in my book