Oh man. If you watch one questionable movie (Welcome to Me), Netflix immediately believes the worst in you and starts recommending movies for the hidden loser in all of us. I assume this is what led me to watch something as painful and thoughtless as The Road Within.
First, that smarmy title. If it sounds like a non-selling self-help book, maybe leave it at that.
So the formulaic story is this: three young adults find themselves at a treatment centre under the care of Kyra Sedgwick for their various ailments. So they steal her car and go on an oddball road trip while the good doctor apparently abandons all other patients in order to search for them.
Vincent (Robert Sheehan) has severe Tourette’s – he tics and swears his way through this film; Marie (Zoe Kravitz) is painfully thin and painfully anorexic; Alex (Dev Patel) is as OCD (obsessive-compulsive, emphasis on obsessive) as they come. Though competently acted, I often felt their afflictions teetered on being played for laughs, and this set me on edge for the duration of the film.
Writer-director Gren Wells is remaking a 2010 German film, Vincent Wants to Sea, which is slightly better but didn’t exactly scream to be remade. The thing that kills me is that lots of real-life people live with these diseases, and they tend to do it with a lot more grace than this movie possesses. How does it both trivialize and make a mockery of these afflictions? And why are their characters allowed to be completely defined – and even overwhelmed – by their respective challenges? Because none of them seems to have a personality. They just have illness. And that rings false.
It seems to want to avoid the sentimental ending but can’t quite resist. The trio of young actors do pretty impressive jobs considering the patronizing material they’re wrestling with, but it’s not enough to uplift the movie or to make me feel comfortable with the way it treats some pretty serious issues.
One good thing I’ll mention in regards to this movie:
REELABILITIES hosted a special screening of the movie in April 2015, which was attended by Dr. Danielle Sheypuk. REELABILITIES is a film festival dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories, and artistic expressions of people with different disabilities, which is a beautiful idea and a cause near and dear to my heart.
Danielle Sheypuk, if you don’t know her, is a ground-breaking busy-body: a licensed psychologist, media commentator, disability-rights advocate and fashion model. She’s also worn the crown of Miss Wheelchair New York and was the first woman in a wheel chair to grace the catwalk at New York fashion week, February 2014 (a year later, fashion house Carrie Hammer tapped American Horror Story Jamie Brewer to walk their show, marking the first woman with Down syndrome to appear at fashion week). Dr. Sheypuk specializes in the problems of dating, relationships and sexuality among the disabled, a necessary but taboo subject I’ll be covering in my upcoming review of The Sessions.