With Vincent Wants To Sea, director Ralf Huettner has the good fortune to harness his evident skills to a wonderful script written by Florian David Fitz, one of the film’s three young leads, and on-target performances that benefit from a nifty spin on the classic road genre.
With considerable humour and brightness (visually manifest in the lush Alpine scenery), the movie begins as 27-year-old Vincent Gellner (Fitz), a shy and sweet Tourette’s sufferer, is dispatched to a fancy, out-of-the-way facility for the mentally challenged by his disapproving father (Heino Ferch). Vincent’s mother, with whom he was close and whose ashes he cherishes, has just passed away. His dad is a politically ambitious, cell phone-wielding workaholic resentful of the mother-son bond. He sees his son’s affliction, characterized by weird, convulsive tics and an inability to control obscene language, as a serious handicap to his promising political career.
Dumped at the institution, which is suggestive of an IKEA-inspired notion of group country living, Vincent is assigned to share a room with neurotic, uptight Alexander (Johannes Allmayer), who’s been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and has no tolerance for dirt or clutter. Additionally, Vincent attracts the attention and romantic interest of Marie (Karoline Herfurth), a bold and rebellious anorexic who suffers from the ill-founded counseling of the facility’s Dr. Rose (Katherine Mûller-Elmau), a bit of a mess herself.
Although Vincent and Alexander are hardly ideal roommates, the two, at the instigation of Marie, end up passengers in Dr. Rose’s old Saab and take to the road, hoping to reach the sea where Vincent can free his mother’s ashes. The goal is Italy and a glorious journey takes the trio through the Alps and Brenner Pass but not without drama and considerable scenery.
After the fugitives make off from a gas station without paying, Vincent’s father and Dr. Rose are alerted and give chase because, if reported, the incident will damage both their careers. They catch up with the three but some mishaps have father and doctor giving chase under unenviable, often hilarious conditions.
Things heat up between politician and doctor, who develop an attraction, and between Vincent and Marie, who consummate their relationship. But things go awry and even a little messy plot-wise when, arriving in Italy, Mr. Gellner and Dr. Rose run into trouble with the police, a jealous Alexander takes revenge on his amorous traveling companions, and the trio confront the seriousness of Marie’s anorexia.
Thanks to its wonderful performances, Vincent Wants To Sea amounts to an upbeat experience, even as real-life problems are addressed with insight and sympathy. Fitz, who deserves much credit for his script, is also a standout as the convulsive, blue-language sputterer in a challenging role that recalls Dustin Hoffman’s performance in Rain Man.
– Doris Toumarkine, Film Journal International