D: Sam Mendes. DP: Ellen Kuras. W: Dave Eggers & Vendela Vida. Starring: John Krasinski/Maya Rudolph/Catherine O’Hara/Jeff Daniels/Maggie Gyllenhaal/Allison Janney/Chris Messina/Melanie Lynskey/Jim Gaffigan/Paul Schneider/Carmen Ejojo.
Summer is not only a time loaded with mega-budget popcorn flicks, melting popsicles held by loud children, long lines at theme parks, booze on the beach, but also a time of heat. Heat with maybe a little splash of…romance?
Krasinski’s Burt and Rudolph’s Verona make a realistic and relatable pair of possible “fuck-ups” who, sans reliable nearby paternal grandparents, decide to take to the sky (and road) in order to find somewhere for their daughter-to-be to grow up “huckfinnish.” This they agree on, as their own names represent a comical contrast that we see throughout the film. But, the couple’s journey proves more bouncy than anticipated, yet thoroughly enjoyable as Mr. Mendes pulls ranks and gives his young actors clever and unforgettable scenes to play against other actors in moments far superior to the label of cameo. I raise my hat, glass and whatever clout I may have to the new Mrs. Saarsgard, for giving me some of the heartiest laughs I’ve had in awhile. I will never live in doubt of you or Mr. Mendes’ talent.
That being said, to some the film might seem slow moving as Krasinski and Rudolph, although effortlessly comical and endearing, take a whole film to make a decision and merely witness a lot of change or action in other characters lives. But I must argue that this crescendo is the point. The film may not have what is now standard summer movie flare, but it instead has its own distinct palette that makes you happy for what it does offer rather than wishing for what it didn’t. A palette that thankfully includes Ellen’s Kuras fresh and well conceived cinematography, such that we are always in the room with Burt and Verona, yet never voyeuristic.
And what Away We Go does have is subtlety. And not because it has quiet yet poignant moments, but rather the carefulness of its detail and the simplicity of its story that accurately captures the complexity of circumstance. Circumstances that morph lives into those different from what was planned, envisioned or dreamed of. Reminding its audience that the road least expected can be just as fun, and just as brilliantly original as anything else. And set to a well timed and crafted soundtrack? Once again reinforcing that what in the end is important, is not where we end up, but how we get there, the journey.
However, the journey does hold some cliches. Like most films containing a major character’s pregnancy, there is of course the reminder that the couple should be thankful for their ability to conceive. That adopting children is somehow always second best or hollow compared to children of one’s own blood. Or that some people’s parenting skills are just a bit off kilter to the rest of us. But Mr. Mendes, we know all this. And some level, he gets this, because by the end of Away We Go we know that the film wasn’t about the baby, or her potential childhood, but rather about the couple finding their footing, a place that will foster their companionship and help to make their love endure.
Love that was maybe born during summer time? Who knows, but let’s say we try and find some of our own just in case.