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Film Review: The Road Within (2014): Hesitating at a Fork in the Road

 

Let's take a second to look inside ourselves and see what we're made of.

That seems to be what 2014’s The Road Within was trying to achieve. With Robert Sheehan at the helm as a young Tourette's syndrome sufferer grieving for a loved one, the audience is pushed to get 'the feels' from the first opening scenes where his ticks force him to leave a funeral in anger and frustration. Sheehan dazzles in his performance as he feels his way through his physical and verbal ticks, and his acting efforts are definitely worth commending. As is Zoe Kravitz’s performance as the anorexic girl with a dry sense of humour and a fragile sense of self.

The stand out performance however, comes from Dev Patel as his character suffers with extreme Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that impacts him physically and mentally, not unlike Sheehan’s character with his Tourette’s. Patel regards Sheehan as a new disease in the form of a new roommate, when he arrives at a shared facility that helps teenagers with similar illnesses. Patel does not hold back and in fact expresses an all too real portrayal of the distress someone obsessed with cleanliness and order might feel, when that order is threatened by a new, sometimes unpredictable force, in the form of Sheehan.

Nevertheless these three characters form an entertaining but slightly predictable friendship, and although there are sporadic hints throughout the film at the mental health and social issues that have contributed to their illnesses, nothing entirely concrete is taken any further. Instead the story rolls along with their grand plan to leave the facility that hasn't really "helped" and search for a beach. The simplistic nature of this plot line appears deliberate and allows room for the road trip itself to become the main focus of the film.

Despite this, the storyline did not feel strong enough, and what really carried the film was the acting and brilliant complexity of the characters, subdued at times but still able to keep the audience intrigued enough to keep watching. Unfortunately, the supporting roles of Robert Patrick as the neglectful father and Kyra Sedgwick as the facility therapist trying to track down the wayward teenagers, felt like an unnecessary adage, that at times slowed the story down rather than helping to move it along.

There was a sense of always waiting for more in this film, especially with a title that promises deep intrigue. For the most part however, it did not take the road less travelled as one might have hoped, but it did present us with three interesting and complex characters whose stories could have done with a few more in roads for the screen.

 Written by Maame Blue.

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