Vincent Wants to Sea (Corinth Films, NR)

These young people all want more than they’ve been granted, and they’re not willing to settle for a half-life lived decorously out of sight of a society that really doesn’t want them.



I tend to think of the road trip as an American phenomenon but when it comes to movies, anyway, Europeans seem like them almost as much as we do. Vincent Wants to Sea actually features two road trips that proceed in parallel and if most of what happens is fairly predictable there are still enough surprises, and sincerity, to make this modest film directed by Ralf Huettner worth your time.

The English title is an odd formulation that tries to create a new pun to replace the one lost in translation. The German title, Vincent will Meer, means "Vincent wants the sea" or "Vincent wants to go to the sea" but is also a homonym for "Vincent wants more" and both meanings are applicable to this film.

Vincent (Florian David Fitz) is a young adult with poorly controlled Tourette Syndrome whose mother recently died. His politician father (Heino Ferch) has no patience for either Vincent or his disease (which manifest itself as torrents of bad language as well as physical tics) and packs him off to a clinic run by Dr. Rose (Katharina Mueller-Elmau). It’s not a terrible place but is hardly where anyone would choose to spend their days if they had a choice in the matter. Vincent strikes up a friendship with the anorexic Marie (Karoline Herfurth) and works out a truce of sorts with his obsessive-compulsive roommate Alexander (Johannes Allmayer) while also displaying a worrisome tendency towards violence when angered.

His condition has precluded either finishing school or getting a job and as much as Vincent has any goal in life it is to spread his mother’s ashes in the seacoast off Italy, fulfilling her dying wish. Before too long the opportunity presents itself in terms of Dr. Rose’s car keys, pilfered by Marie, and the improbable trio of patients is off on their mission, soon pursued by Dr. Rose and Vincent’s father, an even odder couple who also have quite a bit to learn about themselves and each other.

The level of realism is a little higher than that of a John Hughes movie, so while wishful thinking plays a role in the story it’s balanced by serious consideration of the problems faced by these young adults who don’t fit into the world into which they were born. Certainly Vincent Wants to Sea stays infinitely closer to reality than, say, the improbably praised It’s Kind of a Funny Story. We regularly see evidence of the serious issues facing Vincent, Marie and Alexander (and believe me, it’s more than a few fetching cheek scars or disappointment in not being chosen for a competitive academic program) and these realities don’t magically evaporate in a feel-good finale. Basically, these young people all want more than they’ve been granted, and they’re not willing to settle for a half-life lived decorously out of sight of a society that really doesn’t want them.

Strong acting makes the characters seem real even when the script tends to over-simplification, and Ferch deserves special commendation for making a recognizable human being out of a character that could easily have become the worst kind of stereotype. Fitz, who also wrote the screenplay, ably conveys Vincent’s frustration at not being able to control his body while Herfurth and Allmayer bring some nuance to roles which are written pretty much as types. Location shooting in Germany and Italy by Andreas Berger is another plus: you get a nice little vicarious tour of the Alps along with your story. | Sarah Boslaugh


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