Tag Archives: Tourette’s

The Road Within (2014)

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So, I did the unthinkable last night, I watched a remake of a foreign movie before viewing the original. The Road Within is a remake of the 2010 German film, Vincent Wants to Sea, and I’ve heard it is a very faithful adaptation. Anyway, if that is the case, I might as well cross Vincent off my itinerary. The Road Within may be an independent film, but it feels as pedestrian as they come.

Let’s cut to the chase; the real problem here isn’t the script (trite and hokey as it is,) but Dev Patel. Fucking Dev Patel, man, Robert Sheehan plays Vincent, a Tourette’s Syndrome victim with a anger management problem in this movie, and he’s quite good. He’s making a monumental effort against a weak script with his solid performance.

Following his alcoholic mother’s death, Vincent is sent to a behavioral therapy program by his cold-hearted  politician father (Robert Patrick) and so sooner has he been dropped off and virtually abandoned by pops he befriends a flirty pixyish anorexic (Zoe Kravitz) and hits the road in his therapist’s stolen car to scatter his  mother’s ashes at sea.

Of course there’s one small problem, besides that whole ‘wanted felons in a stolen car’ thing. Vincent and the Anorexic, Marie have taken Vincent’s annoying roommate, Alex (Dev Patel) with them, quite forcibly (to prevent him from narcing them out to the doctors at the facility,) and that’s where the film really falters.

Don’t watch this if you’re an Obsessive-compulsive Disorder victim like me; it will just infuriate and baffle you. Alex is a pedantic clean freak who suffers from OCD, and that’s where the filmmaker’s development of his character ends. His character more often than not provides some kind of ghastly slapstick, his eyes bulging out like a deranged Marty Feldman incarnate, jumping about comically like a spastic and screaming about ‘poo’ and ‘contamination’ whenever someone touches him.

It’s pretty much the tackiest OCD stereotype one can imagine, and I felt almost embarrassed for the actor and the filmmaker in that (a they treated a complex and serious illness this way and (b that they thought people with OCD actually act like this. While Sheehan’s part is underwritten and pretty cliche as far as depictions of Tourette’s Syndrome go (choosing to portray the uncontrollable cursing that sometimes- but not typically- goes with the illness,) his character is written with some finesse and sympathy, and the actor creates a somewhat likable protagonist with admittedly limited resources. He seems, more or less, like someone who could exist in the real world.

Contrary to this movie’s depiction of OCD, people suffering from the illness are not psychotic or retarded (we may in fact be borderline crazy, if ‘insanity’ is defined by having an unfortunate mental condition that hinders our day-to-day functioning, but I desist.) The director, Gren Wells, could just as well have hired Adam Sandler (Happy Madison productions Sandler, not Punch-Drunk Love Sandler) to play Alex and it probably would have been just as convincing a portrayal. Patel’s shtick gets old fast, and by fast I mean the minute he’s introduced into the movie.

Besides the unfortunate depiction of certain psychological conditions, the setup of The Road Within is painfully standard, with characters apparently reaching recovery from a healing road trip and lots and lots of big discussions about the trio’s illnesses effect on their lives. Robert Patrick does a good job (and actually has a touching monologue near the end) but his character is just too unbelievable, going full circle from uncaring jerk to genuinely loving dad thanks to a few short conversations with Vincent’s shrink (Kyra Sedgwick.) The transformation just isn’t plausible with you consider the father, Robert’s years of being a total asshole to his son.

It all ties into a neat tidy bundle at the end and despite some good scenes and performances, ultimately has little to say about the character’s conditions. Comedies, whether convivial or dark, about mental illness can be effective; just look at Benny & Joon, The Silver Linings Playbook, and The bizarro black comedy The Voices. The Voices was offensive as offensive can be, but it didn’t try to be anything other than a pitch black comedy. The Silver Linings Playbook performed the high wire act between being light and funny and not trivializing the characters’ illnesses. The Road Within has it’s moments, but ultimately it’s just not a substantial flick, obtaining cheap laughs from the character’s  respective maladies and telling a well-meaning yet tired story with no real surprises.

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Against Medical Advice by James Patterson & Hal Friedman

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As a sufferer of severe OCD, stories about the disorder have been of interest to me throughout my life. Although I wished that the boy who actually had the disorder, Corey Friedman, had written the book instead of his father (writing in his son’s voice) and bestseller James Patterson, I have to admit that they did a good job of bringing Corey’s voice to life. In this case, Corey was doubly unlucky- instead of just suffering Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, he was also afflicted with a particularly extreme case of Tourette’s Syndrome. His woes began, like me, when he was five years old, when he began to tic daily, a cycle that included shaking his head violently, breaking his teeth by biting down on them with brute force, and tearing his muscles with jarring bodily movements.

Corey’s life came to a stand-still as his body began to turn against him. As he grew into a troubled teen, he found that more often than not psychiatric medications had drastic side effects, and the only ‘medication’ he could really count on was alcohol. Corey went to various therapist’s and tried various meds, but his devastating illness wouldn’t yield. Eventually, he found he had to fight ferociously for his life.

This is a heartwrenching story but also an inspiration to those who suffer from mental disorders, because Corey eventually beat his illness. I loved the subject matter of this book but sometimes found the writing a little underwhelming. It seems like Corey’s dad has to explain his son’s behavior and apologize for him in a overblown way. It also features a lot of cliche and hyperbole typically attributed to the young adult genre, i.e. ‘my face burned, my heart ached’ that I think should be cut back on. Hal Friedman often tried too hard to speak in a ‘teen voice,’ which could be just plain awkward at times.

Despite these setbacks, this is really a good read, especially for someone like me who has been on a ton of medications throughout their life. Your body gets used to the medicines to the point where they don’t even take effect anymore. It’s true, I’ve lived it. Then you go through the hassle of going on a new medication that might make you sleep all the time, etc. Except in Corey’s case, the symptoms were much more severe. This book made me realize how lucky I was when for years I felt like the most wretched person in the world because of my uncontrollable thoughts.

This book has it’s drawbacks, but it tells a good story poignantly. I was disappointed to find out that ‘Med Head: my Knock-Down, Drag-Out, Drugged-Up Battle With My Brain’ was just an adaptation of this book written to appeal to teens rather than a separate work written by Corey himself, as I thought it was at first. It was obvious Corey had a good mind beneath his ticcing, twitching, ineffectual body and I really wish him the best as he begins his normal life free of the symptoms that plagued him for years.

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