Trapped inside the German film Vincent Wants to Sea there's an affecting father-son drama, an amusing road movie, a quirky romantic comedy and a non-patronizing take on mental illness. What we actually get—a homogenized movie-of-the-week set against the Alps and punctuated by anodyne English-language pop songs—brought out the cynic in me. After snagging audience choice awards at minor U.S. fests and garnering two surprise Lolas (German Oscars), Best Picture and Best Actor for star and screenwriter Florian David Fitz, the dramedy is a case in which "crowd-pleaser" should be taken with a grain of salz. Still, its pasteurized accessibility may translate into a comparatively big haul as it rolls out onto twenty arthouse screens across the country this summer.
If it does catch on, don't be surprised if you're asked: Have you seen the one about the German hunk with Tourette's syndrome who flees a hospital with an anorexic and an obsessive-compulsive? Following his mother's funeral, 27-year-old Vincent (Fitz) is consigned to a private clinic by his bullying father (Heino Ferch)—a rising politician who can't be bothered to deal with his son's tics and spasmodic verbal outbursts. Upon his arrival, Vincent meets two fellow patients, skeletal Marie (Karoline Herfurth) and anal Alexander (Johannes Allmayer), and before you can say "autobahn," they steal their therapist's Saab and head south across the Alps so Vincent can scatter his mom's ashes in the Mediterranean. The shrink (Katharina Muller-Elmau) and Vincent's dad give chase. Every plot turn can be seen coming from five kilometers away. Will Marie take a bite out of a sandwich? Will she and Vincent fall in love? Will Alexander find a clean-enough toilet? Will Vincent's father ever respect him?
The third act is fairly restrained and thus more effective, but all in all Vincent Wants to Sea is sanitized mush. The scenery looks nice, yet any pleasure the viewer tries to take in it, or in the movie's mildly amusing or heartwarming sequences, is spoiled by a Lite Rock soundtrack that climaxes with Train's "Soul Sister" and inserts half-a-dozen interchangeable ditties by the band Cargo City on cue—as if the action weren't enough to guide audience reaction. During one such moment, the three prongs of our mental health trifecta are shown perched atop a giant crucifix at the summit of a mountain they've climbed. I suppose we should be thankful Fitz doesn't attempt to school us in the three conditions they suffer from. His screenplay does contain this colorful line however, rendered in the subtitles as, "There's a clown in my head that shits between my synapses." So that's what Tourette's feels like. To play on the pun of the movie's German title, what Vincent wants isn't for me. That said, it does make me curious about director Ralf Huettner's 1987 feature debut Cripples Go Christmas. Now there's a title I'd like to track down.
Distributor: Corinth Releasing
Cast: Florian David Fitz, Karoline Herfurth, Heino Ferch, Katharina Müller-Elmau, Johannes Allmayer, Karin Thaler
Director: Ralf Huettner
Screenwriter: Florian David Fitz
Producers: Viola Jäger, Harald Kügler
Genre: Drama/Comedy; German-language, subtitled
Running time: 96 min.
Release date: June 24 NY