2014 / Director Gren Wells.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
THE ROAD WITHIN is a remake of the German film VINCENT WANTS TO SEA and it’s a good thing I hadn’t seen that film before. In fact it hadn’t crossed my radar at all. And so I went into THE ROAD WITHIN thinking it to be a sincere, quirky and effective dramatic comedy. Had I been aware of the original I would have had my guard up.
The film follows the cross-country road trip of three young patients from a psychiatric facility. One suffers from severe turrets, another is anorexic and the third has full-blown obsessive-compulsive disorder. Naturally the clashing of their illnesses provides the film with an offbeat, and often heartfelt, tone and allows us a glimpse into the frustrations and tortures of living with mental illness.
While the nature of the film is comical it is deeply seeded in a much darker foundation. Each character’s disorder comes with a story… whether it is early trauma that triggered the condition or the associated lives affected by it, all three of our protagonists carry a lot of weight along their journey. The performances are all very good and each of the players resist the temptation of presenting caricatures. To writer/director Gren Wells’ credit the humour derives from the frustrations of the characters’ illnesses rather than the illnesses themselves. That is not to say that I was entirely convinced by all of the performances, but rather that I gave myself over to the story as much as possible.
I have had a few brushes with mentally ill people throughout my life, but have never been so close to it as to recognise the true sincerity of performances in a film such as this. I can only assume that a lot of research and understanding has been given to each condition and I am willing to accept the depictions presented here. Of course I am very keen to back-track to the original film, which I suspect will have a much stronger emotional anchor.
THE ROAD WITHIN plays out like ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOOS NEST crossed with LAST ORDERS. It is a touching and amusing drama that skirts around convention. It is not without its faults (such as a flimsy side-story involving their doctor and one of the parents and an uninspiring title) but it does maintain its stamina throughout and ought to hold most people’s attention to the end.