The Road Within

Posted by Joel Copling on May 19, 2015

The conditions from which our trio of protagonists suffer in "The Road Within" are merely platforms for what can only be unintentional comedy (via two performances that are unable to sell the quirks of Tourette's syndrome and compulsive germophobia) and unfiltered melodrama (via three other performances that rarely transcend their characters' dull types). The movie itself also basically flits back and forth between the two modes with a surprising amount of careful modulation. The mixture doesn't really work, but it's not for lack of trying on director Gren Wells's part. Even if her screenplay, based on a German film from 2010, could have used more than a little dialing back of its lazy funny stretches and forced sentimentality, there are elements within of a successful melodrama.

The problem is with its depiction of these conditions. Vincent (Robert Sheehan) is the one with Tourette's, a disease that manifests itself in uncontrollable squawking of all manner of vulgarities (His subconscious' favorite curse word of choice is a four-letter shorthand for female genitalia, and it nearly receives as much screentime here as the shorthand for intercourse) and spastic gesticulating that the actor never manages to sell (I say that as a person who has experience dealing with sufferers of the condition). Alex (Dev Patel) is the one with clinical germophobia and OCD, which manifest themselves via panic attacks at the mere presence of bacteria or loss of order in his carefully calculated system; Patel overplays much of this aside from some moments of real emotional nakedness in the third act.

And then there is Marie, an anorexic with a quick but rarely subversive wit who accompanies the other two on a trip to the ocean (Vincent recently lost his mother and primary caretaker and wants to spread her ashes along the Californian coast) and attempts to open their eyes and mind to experiences they would otherwise not have. Zoe Kravitz, a self-admitted former sufferer of anorexia, plays the role well enough but only to the extent that Wells's screenplay allows her. There is also an annoying subplot involving Vincent's father (Robert Patrick) and the doctor (Kyra Sedgwick) whose institution brings the trio together as they look for said trio (who have stolen the good doctor's car). "The Road Within" is best when juggling its disparate tones; when it focuses on one without the other, it collapses under the weight.

Film Information

Robert Sheehan (Vincent), Dev Patel (Alex), Zoe Kravitz (Marie), Robert Patrick (Robert), Kyra Sedgwick (Dr. Mia Rose).

Directed and written by Gren Wells.

Rated R (language throughout, sexual content/nudity, drug use).

100 minutes.

Released in select cities on April 17, 2014.