In the midst of all the explosions, floating houses and pubescent wizards, there is a smaller, more intimate film making its way through the multiplex this summer. “Away We Go” is one of the best discoveries to be found playing in a theater near you.
The story is a simple one. Burt and Verona are expecting a baby. This is their first child, and they are faced with all the decisions that new parents must discuss. Fortunately for them, both have jobs that allow the couple to relocate wherever they would choose to live. The film follows the expectant parents as they go across the country and into Canada seeking the best place to raise their child.
Not wanting to relocate where they will be all alone, the places they visit are all cities where they already know someone. The film takes the viewer along for the ride, and ultimately shuttles Verona, Burt, the baby and the audience through a hilarious and oft-touching adventure with a perfect conclusion.
There are huge laughs in the film. Some of the friends Verona and Burt visit are quite eccentric. One can see easily why it would be a bad choice to locate near those families. To say more would be to spoil the jokes. But amid all the humor, there are plenty of moments that touch the heart and resonate with many who have shared the adventure of parenting.
Ultimately, the film is a “road picture.” But like all great “road” films, it is so much more. It is a reflection on parents and child-rearing. Throughout their visits with friends and relatives, Burt and Verona encounter various parenting styles and numerous parenting issues.
This couple and the viewers reflect upon how people parent, the choices they make and the struggles they endure. Moral questions are raised, and sometimes answered. But thought, reflection and even inspiration are found in the situations and the dialogue, even when answers are not clear.
The cast is quite good, with stand-out performances from the two leads: Maya Rudolph (formerly of “Saturday Night Live”) as Verona and John Krasinski (of “The Office”) as Burt. However, the real stars of this film are the screenwriters. Real-life couple Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida have constructed a masterful script, which is all the more impressive because it is their first.
As stated above, the laughs are bountiful, which is rare in films today, but more importantly, it is the explosion of honesty and truth in the quieter moments that makes this screenplay, and ultimately this film, one worthy of pursuit. You will not find it on five screens at every theater. So seek it out, especially if you are a parent.
This film is R-rated for language which is sometimes crude, some sexuality and fornication. Also the unborn child that is central to the plot will be parented by a couple who are not married. All of this may be offensive to some, but the truths the film states about parenting far outweigh the possible offense for this reviewer.
Roger Thomas is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Albemarle, N.C.
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content.
Director: Sam Mendes
Writers: Dave Eggers, Vendela Vida
Cast: John Krasinski: Burt Farlander; Maya Rudolph: Verona De Tessant; Carmen Ejogo: Grace De Tessant; Catherine O’Hara: Gloria Farlander; Jeff Daniels: Jerry Farlander; Allison Janney: Lily; Jim Gaffigan: Lowell; Maggie Gyllenhaal: LN; Melanie Lynskey: Munch Garnett.
The movie’s official web site is here.