Complacent with road-movie tropes, director Ralf Huettner and screenwriter Florian David Fitz’s Vincent Wants to Sea is likeable insofar as it’s familiar. Tried and true, having people drive away from their problems or through a journey of self-discovery is an effective use of the cinematic medium. It gives characters time to reveal themselves while keeping things moving along. Vincent Wants to Sea wants nothing else, and on that level succeeds. Its optimistic straightforwardness takes us cleanly through all of its characters’ messy and detoured lives, staying comfortably behind the glass, only cracking the window for the occasional inhale of the Alps’ fresh mountain air.
Dumped by his widower father at a rehabilitation center for Germany’s young and mentally disabled, 27-year-old Vincent (Fitz), who suffers from Tourette’s syndrome, realizes that there’s no better time than the present to actualize the screenplay’s obvious but undisclosed Ferris Bueller’s Day Off fantasies. With frustrated cheeriness, he grabs his girl, token anorexic Marie (Karoline Herfurth), and his misanthropic, Cameron Frye-like roommate, token obsessive-compulsive Alex (Johannes Allmeyer), and they set out in their therapist’s car—and then later, as befitting the fantasy, Vincent’s father’s car—to escape authority and find themselves on their way to the Italian coast, where Vincent plans to obligatorily dump the ashes of his deceased mother.
Their trip outta hell has all the usual trappings of such a setup, but the film never breaks down, even if it’s a car ride you’re not excited to go on again. For as familiar as the movie is, it never feels so worn out that there’s no life left in it. It helps that there’s a current of comedy—Vincent provides a steady stream of cursed outbursts, and Alex has his own frequent spazz-outs—running throughout (Vincent can swear voluntarily too) that keeps the movie from falling asleep at the wheel, especially when we’re being lulled by the soggy pop music of Train, among others. Though the movie clings to its generic grab bag of music, characters, and storyline like a hoarder that can’t let go of things they don’t need, it manages not to be totally done-in by their dullness thanks to some heartfelt performances and a competent production. That’s probably why when Vincent’s father and the therapist find the runaways in the Alps, it’s not hard to get past the images of those old Ricola commercials that beckon strongly, and instead of hearing them shout the name of those cough drops, you can hear them call out Vincent’s.