The Road Within, 2014
dir. Gren Wells
A road trip film featuring characters with mental illnesses that is about more than mental illness. This is a film about relationships and coping with difficult situations and the frustration that comes with having an illness that controls your life and allows everyone else to define who you are, yet trying to escape it at the same time.
Robert Sheehan plays Vincent, a young man with Tourette’s who is sent to a clinic after the death of his mother. He has a strained relationship with his politician father, who is ashamed of him and his disease, and he struggles to form relationships with other people. Through twists and turns, he ends up on a non-clinic sanctioned road trip to California to drop his mother’s ashes at sea, with Marie (Zoë Kravitz), who suffers from anorexia, and Alex (Dev Patel), who is extremely OCD. They form an unlikely bond as they run away together — though Alex screams kidnapping at first. We get to see these people function in spite their illnesses — except for Marie, who doesn’t fight her anorexia, and doesn’t eat during the trip, ultimately landing her in the hospital. It is a fascinating look into these lives that seem so foreign for people who are not mentally ill. But it is also relatable, we understand these characters motivations, and they are never defined only by their illness.
The performances are amazing, Robert Sheehan and Dev Patel especially. Sheehan’s physical work during a Tourette’s attack is exceptional here, and Patel’s whole demeanour is completely different from how we usually see him in films.
I think the film deals really well with mental illness as well, showing the audience how impairing these illnesses can be but also highlighting that they are not all-consuming and that people can cope with them, live with them.
It is by no means a perfect film, but all the performances are solid, the look of it is good, and, most importantly, carries an important message without pandering or hammering you over the head with it.
review by Mariana Duarte