Published Jun 11, 2009Stepping away from his aesthetic of airtight storyboarding and deliberate double-meanings, but sticking to themes of Western misdirection and awkward, yet cathartic, stabs at meaning, Sam Mendes takes a deliberately loose and breezy approach to this tale of impending parental ennui, which works in the film's favour. While occasionally precious and episodic, Away We Go boasts poignancy, humour and performances, which make it the perfect escape from the recent barrage of insipid summer blockbusters.
Setting up its unorthodox, yet familiar, tone, things start out when Burt (John Krasinski) notices a new taste while going down on his wife Verona (Maya Rudolph), which, thankfully, indicates pregnancy. Uncertain of what this life change means to them, or really who they see themselves being, the couple travel cross-country to find a new home after breaking the news to Burt's peculiar parents (Jeff Daniels and Catherine O'Hara).
What transpires are a series of pedagogical events for the couple, as they encounter old friends in the form of a bitter ex-co-worker (Allison Janney, who offers one of the more amusing rants of the film), a bat-shit-crazy hippie friend (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and a despondent ex-college roommate (Melanie Lynskey, who offers one of the more touching dialogues).
There is a touch of condescension in the overall implications, which, in its own way, is necessary and easily overlooked, given the sincere connection between the leads and their identifiable struggle with self-definition. It's communicated with a touch-and-go dynamic that could be criticized for tonal inconsistencies despite speaking to requisite life highs and lows with aplomb.
It is perhaps this understated expressionistic freedom that gives the film its emotional punch, simultaneously offering feelings of joy and sorrow that are unmistakably human, which, truth be told, the world of self-conscious cinema desperately needs. (Alliance)