The Road Within is a dramedy starring Robert Sheehan, Dev Patel, Zoe Kravitz, Kyra Sedgwick and the T-1000… I mean Robert Patrick.
After his mom dies, Vincent (Sheehan) is sent to a mental health facility by his father (Patrick) to cure him of his Tourette’s syndrome. When he arrives he is put in a room with Alex (Patel) who suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and meets the risk taking Marie (Kravitz), an anorexic and – as we later see – bulimic girl who devises a plan to steal the car of Dr. Rose (Sedgwick) and embark on a journey so that Vincent can scatter his mother’s ashes at the California beach she wanted to go one last time before she passed but was never able to.
One thing you must respect about this movie is how it approaches the sensitive subject matter of the three protagonists. OCD, Anorexia and most prominently Tourette’s are all approached with a slight comedic edge. Some critics have sadly taken this as insensitivity but first-time director Gren Wells clearly didn’t intend it to be as such. It is the character’s themselves who attempt to make light of it. Once such incident where Vincent calls Alex a c**t intentionally is joked about by Alex and Marie where they say “it’s hard to know where you end and your Tourette’s begin” before the trio all chuckle at this.
The movie doesn’t make fun of these illnesses but rather uses them as a device to show that your disabilities shouldn’t stop you from being who you are. They shouldn’t limit you and those with Tourette’s are not defined by the illness. The Road Within still tackles the subject matter seriously but has the characters interact as a group of teenagers would, with the occasional “pot hole” along the way (if you see the movie you will get that).
The characters do cry, get frustrated, angry, but the reactions seem so natural and you sympathise with them. When Alex freaks out over the littlest mess you understand that he can’t help it and he hates that his OCD dictates his lifestyle but he cannot prevent. When Vincent lashes out and hits someone or tackles someone, or swears profusely at them you sympathise because he can’t control it. When Marie refuses to eat, hides away her food and won’t accept that someone could love her, you know it is because she sees herself in the worst way no matter what others think.
The Road Within has some variations in the pacing, particularly at the end when everything feels so rushed, but the journey these three go on is full of beautiful imagery, emotional moments and more than a few laughs. If you think making light of mental health illnesses, even if it only works to flesh out these characters and make them more relatable is wrong then don’t watch this movie.
But seeing that the crew behind the movie clearly wanted to show that Tourette’s, OCD, anorexia and other illnesses shouldn’t be treated with such a stigma and that they want to show how these groups are still human beings, it’s actually a beautiful message and the characters are so likeable. Sheehan, Kravitz and Patel also deliver amazing performances. Kravitz having dealt with starving herself in the past and Sheehan having worked closely with a man who suffers from Tourette’s, they know the struggles that sufferers have to face. I can see where some will have problems with the portrayals and I do recognise the many problems this movie has pacing-wise, but I still have to recommend it and say: