Anyone know who Sam Mendes is? The director of such films as American Beauty, Jarhead, and my personal favorite, Road to Perdition delivers this incredibly under the radar movie about to expecting parents (The Office’s John Krasinski and SNL’s Maya Rudolph) who realize they aren’t bound by anything in their current lives, and can choose to raise their daughter anywhere they want.
The film follows Bert and Verona on their journey across North America, trying to find the best possible place to raise a child. They head to Phoenix, where their old “friends” live. There they find a largely dysfunctional crew, (including a CRIMINALLY underused Jim Gaffigan), and hot weather, and easily decide this isn’t the place to be.
The charm in the film is the reality of it. These are two people, in love, who want to bring their child up in an ideal environment. The performances of Krasinski and Rudolph are subtly layered, and Krasinski really shines here. He’s sporting the required comedy to indie film beard, and his performance as a soon-to-be father is absolutely fantastic. Everything he says and does is consistent throughout the film, and he has this delicate-ness in his choices that actually allows for great precision. His character is calm, and watching him try to spike Verona’s heart rate with a “fight” leads to some pretty good laughs.
Rudolph is very surprising, as I’d never pictured her as a “leading lady,” but she does account very well for herself here as the pregnant woman. She doesn’t fall into the trappings that most actresses do when portraying a woman (or Schwarzenegger) with a bun in the oven. She stays sweet, true to herself, and doesn’t allow it to change her ideals.
I’m very surprised this didn’t get more of a push on its theatrical release. It’s a quality movie, and with Sam Mendes as a director, you could have really pushed this as a fresh film during the summer months. Mendes delves into a newer genre for him, and proves that he is a rare director who can cross genres seamlessly, and had I not known going in that it was his project, I would’ve been floored to find out afterword. It has his touch, but it’s just not obviously his. It’s the lightest film of his I’ve seen, though it is still very thoughtful.
And then, we get Paul Schneider as Bert’s brother in Miami, whose wife just left him. The brothers talk about the situation, and it really opens up some new doors. People know of my man crush on Schneider, and he just plays a father who is unsure what kind of life his daughter will have without her mother. It forces Bert to look at his situation differently, and gives us a very touching scene on a trampoline with Bert and Verona.
A smart, real independent comedy about the woes of pending parenthood, Away We Go is the type of movie that pulls you in and doesn’t let go. With its wonderfully understated performances, fun script, and original story, it’s a fine film to enjoy.
Films like this are rare. It’s funny, smart, and uses a simple premise and takes you on a fun journey as you go along with the future parents as they really investigate the best place to raise their child. The movie takes you to locations as varied as Montreal and Miami, and very seldom do you feel bored (although there are some scenes that feel a tad forced or even altogether unneeded.) But at the end of the movie, you’re glad you watched it, even if it isn’t perfect, flawless, or brilliant.