Away We Go
Review by Jack Foley
HAVING trawled the depths of marital despair in his last film, Revolutionary Road, British director Sam Mendes opts for a refreshingly breezy change of pace with his latest, Away We Go.
The film marks the first time Mendes has helmed from an original screenplay since the Oscar-Award winning American Beauty and it’s a nicely observed indie tale of a young couple looking for a fresh start in life as they anticipate the birth of their first child.
The couple in question, Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph), decide to move when their sole reason for living where they currently do – Burt’s parents (played by Jeff Daniels and Catherine O’Hara) – decide to up sticks and move away to Europe instead of helping to raise their grandchild.
So, they embark on a cross-country trip to visit various friends in the hope of finding somewhere suitable to do so by themselves.
The ensuing journey enjoyably combines moments of laugh-out loud humour with a great deal of poignancy as the [refreshingly] devoted couple re-connect with old acquaintances and discover some alarming truths.
Admittedly, there’s a sweetness about Away We Go that some may find cloying, while the abrasive nature of some of Burt and Verona’s friends will prompt you to question how they ever became friends in the first place.
But for the most part, Mendes’ film charms and succeeds in leaving you with a warm glow.
Of the various people that Burt and Verona meet, Jeff Daniels and Catherine O’Hara stand out early on as Burt’s self-obsessed couple (the dinner scene between the four of them is hilarious), while Allison Janney is clearly having a blast as a loud-mouthed mother who likes to shock and mock.
Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Earth mother strains credibility and is one of several characters to flirt dangerously close to caricature, but even then Mendes drops in a hilarious stroller sequence that offers a crowd-pleasing highlight.
An encounter with Burt’s heartbroken best friend Paul Schneider, meanwhile, affords the film some intimacy that’s missing from the earlier, loonier encounters.
Away We Go would probably irritate a lot more than it does were it not for the sterling efforts of its central couple, who endear themselves wholeheartedly to viewers because of the devotion and loyalty they display to each other throughout.
As such, both Krasinski and Rudolph excel in providing rounded, everyman characters who are easy to live with and root for – something that’s never better highlighted than during a touching scene on a trampoline where they exchange life promises with each other.
Away We Go is therefore a warm-hearted experience, delivered in an indie-lite fashion, that offers an amiable – if inconsequential – night at the movies. Put the cynic in you to one side for a moment and just go with the flow.
Running time: 97mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: February 1, 2010