Vincent Wants to Sea: Film Review

Unlikely traveling partners follow mostly predictable routes in this gentle comic drama. 

The German road movie -- debut screenplay by star Florian David Fitz -- is directedby Ralf Huettner.

The German road movie Vincent Wants to Seais a reassuring excursion into familiar territory. With its clearly defined character quirks -- for starters, the protagonist has Tourette's syndrome -- and obvious setup, the comic drama is a low-key crowd-pleaser, and became a word-of-mouth hit on home turf. A similar fate isn't in store for its stateside art-house run (beginning June 24 in New York, with a Los Angeles bow a week later). But the picture's quiet performances and occasionally surprising moments take it just far enough off the beaten path to make it more than a transparently formulaic feel-good story.

The debut screenplay by actor Florian David Fitz is uneven but pleasingly unfussy, and director Ralf Huettner keeps the five-character narrative moving. Fitz plays the title character, a 27-year-old who loses his emotional anchor -- and, it gradually becomes clear, his albatross -- when his mother dies. Before he can figure out his next step, his politician father (Heino Ferch) delivers him to a health facility -- albeit a nice, clean, cheery one -- to put him and his profanity-laced tics a safe distance from the re-election campaign.

The catalyst Vincent needs arrives in the form of a pretty fellow patient, pot-smoking anorexic Marie (Karoline Herfurth), who recognizes a kindred rebel spirit beneath the tentative surface. Stealing the car of the facility's chief, Dr. Rose (Katharina Muller-Elmau), they head for the Italian coast, where Vincent will scatter his mother's ashes, as she requested. Their unplanned passenger is Alexander (Johannes Allmayer), Vincent's obsessive-compulsive roommate.

The story quickly takes shape as the pairing of two sets of unlikely traveling partners: the central trio of young adults and the middle-aged duo of Dr. Rose and Vincent's father. The latter two, thrown together in pursuit of the escapees, are both determined to keep the potential scandal under wraps and protect their professional reputations. As the chase courses through the picturesque Alps, everyone's protective shell gets cracked, if not peeled away. The transformations are not overstated, although in the case of germophobe Alexander, they're played for gentle laughs through most of the film.

The scenario's plausibility waxes and wanes, and Fitz's screenplay sometimes places chunks of exposition in the mouths of the characters -- especially in the case of Marie's crisis, which is telegraphed and yet never quite convincing. The panicked-politician angle could have been mined for deeper humor; instead it remains a broad-strokes sketch of an A-type personality. It's to Ferch's credit that he makes the character's evolution as affecting as it is.

Vincent's struggle with his affliction has both physical and emotional weight in Fitz's performance, and the decisions Vincent makes at journey's end are among the least predictable moments of this never painful but not quite persuasive trip.

Opens Friday, June 24 (Corinth Films)
Corinth Films and Beta Cinema present an Olga Film production
Cast: Florian David Fitz, Karoline Herfurth, Heino Ferch, Katharina Muller-Elmau, Johannes Allmayer
Director: Ralf Huettner
Screenwriter: Florian David Fitz
Producers: Viola Jager, Harald KuglerDirector of photography: Andreas Berger
Production designer: Heidi Ludi
Music: Stevie B-Zet and Ralf Hildenbeutel
Costume designer: Natascha Curtius-Noss
Editor: Kai Schroeter
No MPAA rating, 94 minutes