When Burt (Jim Krasinski) and his girlfriend Verona (Maya Rudolph) discover they are expecting their first child, they are shocked but relieved they can rely on Burt’s parents (Catherine O’Hara and Jeff Daniels in scene-stealing cameos) for support. But when the grandparents to be drop the bombshell that they are moving oversees, Burt and Verona have the rug pulled from under them. With her parents dead, and realising that they need to find a stable home for their new child, Burt and Verona head off on a trip around the USA searching for the perfect place to raise a family. And, as they catch up with old friends and family, they begin to realise that home really is where the heart is.
It’s undoubtedly a somewhat twee premise and, in the wrong hands, Away We Go could so easily have ended up too schmaltzy – or, conversely too cynical – to have any kind of impact. But with Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Jarhead) at the helm, a man who has proved time and time again that he knows how to expose the vulnerabilities of his characters without turning them into cliche, and with two outstanding performances from TV regulars Krasinksi and Rudolph, it reveals itself to be a perfectly formed modern drama. As Burt and Verona bounce between old university friends and long lost family members, their ideas of what makes a perfect family being put to the test at every turn, so we watch as they come to understand that they have got a relationship and a happiness that is unique only to them. Their trip is not just geographical but psychological, and the characters are so endearing – and their fears about the responsibilities so universal – that it’s thoroughly enjoyable journey. There’s plenty of humour to be found along the way (witness Maggie Gyllenhaal’s overbearing Earth Mother, for example), along with plenty of pathos, including a dialogue free pole-dancing scene that’s the surprisingly moving watershed moment of the film.
It would be easy to dismiss Away We Go as being too self-conscious, too superior, too trendy, even. But embrace its big hearted charm, its Generation X-y dialogue and the intentional tonal shifts that keep pace with Burt and Verona’s increasing awareness of what it means to be a parent, and it proves to be a warm, engaging and utterly sweet little film. 4 stars
None available for review
Stars John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Director Sam Mendes
Distributor E1 Entertainment
Released February 1