VOD film review: The Road Within
Matthew Turner | On 20, Feb 2016
Director: Gren Wells
Cast: Robert Sheehan, Zoe Kravitz, Dev Patel, Kyra Sedgwick, Robert Patrick
Watch The Road Within online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV store / Rakuten TV / Google Play
The debut feature from actress-turned-writer-director Gren Wells, this engaging and enjoyable indie road movie is a remake of Ralf Huettner’s 2010 German film Vincent Wants To Sea.
Robert Sheehan stars as Vincent, a young man with Tourette’s Syndrome, whose politician father, Robert (Robert Patrick), shunts him off to an institution after the death of his mother. At the clinic, Vincent meets institution head Doctor Rose (Kyra Sedgwick) and strikes up a friendship with sparky anorexic Marie (Zoe Kravitz), while attempting to get along with his infuriatingly germ-phobic, OCD roommate, Alex (Dev Patel).
However, Vincent becomes increasingly frustrated and eventually steals Rose’s car, taking Marie and Alex along for the ride (the former willingly, the latter forcibly – to stop him telling anyone after he catches them in the act). Vincent’s plan is to drive from Nevada to California and scatter his mother’s ashes in the ocean, but Rose joins forces with Vincent’s father and the pair attempt to track down the road-tripping trio.
Sheehan is terrific as Vincent, nailing the American accent and pulling off a convincingly physical portrayal of a Tourette’s sufferer, both in terms of the tics and the shocking outbursts. It’s a finely judged turn, emphasising how isolating his condition can be (thus the importance of his connection to Marie), but also acknowledging the unavoidable humour of his situation.
Kravitz is equally good as Marie, committing fully to the role in terms of her physicality (the reveal of her skin-and-bone physique is genuinely shocking) and concealing the seriousness of her disorder with an appealingly spiky attitude, as well as generating palpable chemistry with Sheehan. Similarly, Patel – who’s always seemed rather one-note in the past – delivers perhaps his best performance to date as Alex, displaying great comic timing and tapping into intriguing reserves of anger, again reinforcing the central theme that all three main characters are in some way imprisoned through no fault of their own.
In addition, there’s strong support from Sedgwick and Patrick, essentially engaged in their own mini-road-movie and providing some effective moments of both comedy and emotion along the way.
Wells keeps things moving at a decent pace and displays an assured control of the tone throughout, while the film is handsomely shot by cinematographer Christopher Baffa, who makes strong use of the picturesque locations, including Yosemite and the central California coast. Ultimately, while not enormously eventful in terms of plot, the personal relationships strike the required notes, resulting in an engaging, sharply observed comedy-drama that’s both laugh-out-loud funny and powerful.