Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Film #17: Vincent Will Meer

Released: 2010
Directed by: Ralf Huettner 

Before Christmas I looked at a comedy that isn’t available with subtitles and probably wouldn’t work all that well if it were. For my next film, I decided to revisit a comedy drama that I saw in the cinema in Stuttgart back in 2010 and that I consider to be far superior.

Following his mother’s death, Vincent – who has Tourette’s syndrome – is sent by his father to live in a centre with other young adults dealing with a variety of psychological and physical disorders. He is soon befriended by Marie, who is anorexic, and together they decide to hijack their therapist’s car and travel to Italy so that Vincent can scatter his mother’s ashes in her favourite place. Before they can get away, they are ambushed by Vincent’s roommate Alexander, who (not altogether willingly) joins their quest. 

Obviously, things don’t go according to plan. The relationships between the three are strained both by personality clashes and the additional challenges posed by their different conditions. Before long, they find themselves pursued by Vincent's father and Dr Rose, who face an entirely different set of problems that give them both time to reflect on the wrong turns they may or may not have taken thus far in their lives.

Comedies featuring people with physical disabilities and psychological conditions can often stray into difficult territory, either trying so hard to be nice that it comes across as patronising or veering towards downright nastiness. As someone whose close family has been touched by disability, I did approach the film with a little trepidation. And although an hour and a half is nowhere near enough to explore what it is to have Tourette’s syndrome, or anorexia, or an obsessive-compulsive disorder, I felt it was nicely played. It doesn't ignore the daily reality of being mocked and taunted by complete strangers purely because you are not what they consider 'normal', and Vincent often lashes out when this becomes too much. And not everyone gets a happy ending – just like real life.

I have to admit to being under the impression that this film was not available with English subtitles, but it can be found with a 15 rating under the title ‘Vincent Wants to Sea’ (although it does seem to be quite expensive online). The English title retains the play on the German words ‘Meer’ (sea) and ‘mehr’ (more) in the original title, reflecting the fact that the protagonist is not only on a quest to reach the water, but also to find a way of living that is neither defined nor limited by his disability. If you can find a way of watching this bittersweet film that won't set you back 20 quid, then I highly recommend you do.

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