The Road Within is an amusing, heartwarming drama that aims to bring attention to mental illness and treatment. Vincent, the son of a politician, has severe Tourette Syndrome that interferes with his daily life. His father, embarrassed by his behavior, sends him to an experimental treatment center, where he and two unlikely companions steal a car and begin a journey of self-discovery with one another. Along the way, they unintentionally help each other with their illnesses, and ultimately they grow both individually, and together.
Mental illness is portrayed predominantly throughout the film in several forms: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Anorexia, and Tourette’s Syndrome. When diseases such as these are displayed by non-afflicted actors, error and insult can accompany them. In The Road Within, the diseases are so well portrayed that the characters seem truly afflicted. Each disease is individually shown with great care, and in great detail. There are points during the movie that you feel so empathetic towards Vincent and his illness, that you can almost understand the hell he goes through every day. In response to Vincent’s struggle, my husband observed that “Tourette’s would be prison.” Even Maria displays the severity of her disease through her thin frame and gaunt look, and exhibits signs of a deeper issue in her reluctance to accept real love from those around her.
The exception to this empathy is Alex, who has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. While his portrayal of the compulsive need to stay clean is accurate in nature, there are multiple moments in which this compulsion isn’t displayed, or doesn’t seem to come into play. His compulsion to do each task a certain amount of times seems random, and eventually doesn’t play a part in the movie at all.
Each character displays a drive to reach their goal of getting Vincent to the ocean, but conflict arises for each when their diseases become unmanageable. Alex is the biggest contributor to this, and at a certain point, his character becomes annoying and downright unlikeable. He continually protests the actions taken by the others, all while admitting he wants their approval. While the development of his character shows a man who desires companionship, many changes in his behavior seem forced, while others seem to not change at all. Vincent’s growth is far more natural, as he displays a gradual decrease in outbursts as his relationship with his father comes to a head, and his relationship with his new friends grow closer.
Labeled a Comedy/Drama, the movie lives up to the genre with a mix of clever and sophomoric humor, as well as several tense and emotional moments. Vincent’s outbursts are often comedic in nature, as he says exactly what he is thinking, generally in the form of a profane insult (keeping it entirely deserving of its “R” rating). At other times, the outbursts are hard to watch, as Vincent loses complete control of his ticks and struggles to communicate at all. Alex’s “clean freak” tendencies are funny at times, but what is unintentionally more amusing than the planned jokes are the things he says in a British accent. “Don’t touch me whilst I’m driving!” provoked a louder guffaw than any of his OCD antics, mostly because of the inappropriately formal nature of the outburst.
Largely, the majority of scenes in the movie were tactfully approached, and on occasion, breathtakingly beautiful. Wide angled mountain-esque shots brought meaning to Vincent’s thoughts when he responds to Alex’s doubtful, “What if we die?” with his rebuttal of “What if we… live?!” Some quotes, however, do not hold the same measure of power. Many of Maria’s lines betray her as the loveable rebel with a heart of gold, and Vincent’s dad has a classic, “father-opens-up-about-his-feelings-and-changes-his-outlook-on-his-issues” moment while bonding with Vincent’s doctor. Instances such as these occur frequently, making it impossible to tell if the line being delivered is going to be legitimately deep, or unbearably cheesy. The entire script is very dialogue-heavy, and can be slow on occasion — but even with the battiness, the story is driven enough to maintain investment.
The Road Within is the kind of heartfelt, enjoyable, and sensitive film that you would watch during a lazy day on Netflix. You will thoroughly enjoy it, tell your friends, and then probably never seek it out again. However, while not particularly remarkable or memorable, it still holds its own in making the audience actually think about mental illnesses and the effect they have on those who suffer. It’s an impassioned, honest, and sincere film that balances humor with feeling, delivering at key moments a sucker punch of emotion meant to hit the audience with simple truths. While not necessarily a must-see, The Road Within is most definitely worth a watch; just be prepared for much speculation to follow.
A DVD copy of The Road Within was provided by Well Go USA Entertainment for the purpose of this review. All screenshots are property of Well Go USA Entertainment.
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