The Road Within

Available on Netflix

A movie with a tagline and synopsis that make it seem more silly teen comedy than poignant drama pleasantly surprises in its own small way. With some great performances by a young cast of semi-familiar faces The Road Within tells a story slightly deeper than initial impressions would suggest.

Vincent (Robert Sheehan) is a teenage boy who just lost his mother. Vincent also has Tourette’s Syndrome. His father, who doesn’t know how to relate to his son, sends him to an ‘Experimental Treatment Center’ that looked like it was nicer than the name suggests. Vincent is roomed with a longer term resident, Alex (Dev Patel), who suffers from a near debilitating obsessive compulsive disorder. Before Vincent has time to see what the treatment center is like he meets Marie (Zoe Kravitz) who has a dangerous eating disorder. The unlikely trio embark on a road trip in a stolen car so that Vincent can scatter his mother’s ashes in the Pacific Ocean.

The subject matter of the movie is delicate. While Tourette’s and OCD have been portrayed in films as comedic they are both serious mental conditions. Anorexia is as well. It is not a disease of the body, but a disease of the mind. If audiences get nothing else out of The Road Within they should take away how serious these diseases can be, and the people with them, are still people. Each character was flawed in their own way and grew through their own story arc but nothing in life is black and white or gets a little bow put on top of the nicely wrapped package of a person’s developed personality. Each disease was addressed and their interactions with the outside world portrayed with serious intent without being heavy handed.

The plot itself is where the movie hits the inescapable rut of mediocrity many movies fall into. The plot doesn’t ruin the movie, it’s still a fine watch, but it prevents it from becoming something more. The synopsis alone tells the audience every beat the movie will find. The character arcs are predictable and even the side character’s journeys can be mapped out in the first five minutes of their introductions. No surprises are to be found as the three unlikely friends bond into a friendship that is different and dysfunctional enough to be perfect for them. No one gets entirely over their malady but they all learn to cope, in a way. Even Robert (Robert Patrick), the angry and unreasonable father to Vincent has his own arch and grows as a character in the most hamfisted transition in the movie.

The best part of The Road Within is the young talent. Robert Sheehan, Dev Patel and Zoe Kravitz all have a big title or two (or more) under their belts but it is still refreshing to see members of the next generation of great actors. Maybe no one here will be a Tom Hanks or Robert DeNiro but the movie proves that these are talented young actors with a lot of promise and a long career ahead of them. Acting with a mental disease is hard. To do so without making it a parody is even harder. I won’t spend too much time driving this point home again, but credit where credit is due to these fine actors.

The direction of the movie is as standard as the plot. Writer/Director Gren Wells made a good looking film, evenly paced, and told well enough for what it is. There is no trademark that really stands out but there are no jarring flaws or glaringly bad edits. Being her first time directing she is a relative newcomer to the business, considering this fact it’s easy to say she shows promise without being a sensation. Much like the movie itself.

All things considered The Road Within is a solid choice for a lazy sunday with your favorite streaming platform. It’s easily digestible and only as long as it needs to be. A strong cast and a new director deliver an average script that walks the line between good and bad without toeing too far onto either side.

Adam’s Verdict 3/5

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