Who doesn't love a good road trip movie? Throw in the stellar work of Dev Patel, Robert Sheehan and Zoë Kravitz, you have a film that is already looking good: The Road Within. Just how good is it though? Well, the film played at Edinburgh Film Festival this year and the verdict is in.
Following the passing of his mother, Tourette's sufferer Vincent (Robert Sheehan) is admitted into an "experimental treatment centre", to help him manage his twitches and spasms - along with other patients, suffering from a range of illnesses. When he is forced to share a room with severe OCD patient Alex (Dev Patel), there is some angst as the two don't get along.
Befriending Marie (Zoë Kravitz), an anorexia sufferer, Vincent and her decide that they've had enough of the clinic and want freedom. Stealing a car and ready to run, they encounter a problem when Alex also ends up in the mix. As the trio heads off, friendship seems unlikely but as they spend time with one another on their road trip, they start to get along and have a good time - all whilst Vincent's angry father Robert (Robert Patrick) and clinic manager Dr. Rose (Kyra Sedgwick) are in pursuit.
The thing with road trip films is that we've seen it all before. As is with disaster flicks or apocalyptic dramas, the majority of these films tend to hit the same beats. Sure, you have your occasional anomaly that breaks the barrier of convention to shine with ingenuity. Is The Road Within that movie? In its dreams. Does that mean it's a bad film? No way. Sure, the story is predictable and riddled with clichés but it's still a competent film, nonetheless.
The story is sweet and simple to follow but maybe a bit too much so. It can be so uneven at times. Sometimes it's as if the plot is just doing things for the purpose of doing them and for the purpose of extending the film's runtime. We also jump from doing or talking about one thing to something else altogether. The concept is ingenious and has the potential to be so great but is so patchy and incoherent that it never aspires to much more than okay. The final act of the film is the worst to be affected; so messy and rushed. There's not a cleat ending and the film is just mawkish in wrapping everything up.
It may seem like I'm really criticising the film but, aside from the cluttered story and ideas, the film isn't actually that bad. It boasts some bold, audacious ideas so it gets some brownie points for that - even if the execution is a little underwhelming. However, The Road Within boasts a big, warm heart and it succeeds in making you smile. The comedy is a bit of a hit and miss situation but it works, for the most part. The drama element certainly works, when present. You really feel for these vulnerable teens and this is partly to do with the acting.
The acting in this film is quite easily the best thing about it. Dev Patel's a wonder as Alex, with his obsession with cleanliness. You really feel his paranoia and feel bad for him when he's picked on. Zoë Kravitz is splendid as Marie; you believe her fear in her anorexia and empathise with her. Robert Sheehan sells Tourette's well and you forget that this is merely an actor and really feel for him and his struggle.
Kyra Sedgwick is fine as Dr. Rose, if not as good as her fellow cast members. You can buy into her love for the kids though. Robert Patrick starts off very lacklustre - your stock asshole film dad. However, credit goes to him for turning the performance around and actually putting in some emotion by the end.
There's a lot to like about The Road Within. Sure, it's a very average road trip film but it's one that you can have a good time watching. The idea of putting patients in the front seat can make for some entertaining, somewhat emotional viewing. It's a lot of fun and that's the keyword here. It's definitely a film better suited for teens. It's nothing spectacular but it is a chance to switch off and unwind and watch a competent little film. It's a feel-good story and, if nothing else, it's a good time on a rainy, cold night.
The Road Within is a feel-good story of friendship, love and adventure. It may be riddled with clichés and craziness but it's a good time.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.