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Away We Go ***

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Following the sombre Revolutionary Road, this up beat is a welcome turn from Sam Mendes. Premiering in Edinburgh tonight, Away We Go is charming and frank in the portrayal of a couple embarking upon parenthood, while still unsure of themselves and the world. Mendes brings an artistic spark to the film, capturing beauteous landscapes and incisive visual wit. However, a minimalist plot, clinical direction and a script which occasionally treads too close to banal platitudes, suggest the film might underwhelm.

A truly disarming scene opens, in which the bohemian couple of Burt and Verona (played harmoniously by John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph) discover the conception of their child. I won’t give anything away; but the sweet, dry humour of this beginning persists (although there are few laughs which live up to it). Upon discovering that Burt’s parents are to move overseas, our intrepid protagonists must search for a place to build their lives and raise their child. However, the search for their home is (predictably) not about the place, but about what’s inside themselves (as illuminated by happy and sad encounters with those who have touched their lives – feel free to retch at this press-pack spiel).


At times, the screenplay looks as though it will come perilously close to nauseating schmaltz, or veneration of the privileged position that the peripatetic spawn of moneyed upper-middle-class Americans occupy; and then Eggers & Vida, the married writing duo behind the work, surprise me. Burt explodes, to our joy, at the bullshit existence of LN’s family (Maggie Gyllenhaal & co); the pain of loss bleeds through the Garnett’s lives, exposed in the most touching and eloquent passage in a Montreal karaoke-dance bar. When the journey of Burt and Verona threatens to become sickly, there is no hesitation to flirt with all that is dark and sad in life.

The mix of the two affords a balanced optimism to the concluding act, which ties together a pleasant film, but one which it is sadly difficult to care for. With all its beauty and all the talent gone into Away We Go, it doesn’t feel the event it ought to. Perhaps, in some dimension, it skims the surface of its subject. Supporting characters become vitriolic caricatures, thinly veiled and crudely wielded foils for the insipid leads. And it also has self-conscious hipster credentials, from the soundtrack, the settings, characterisation, the very characters and their fundamentals. Perhaps a film to recommend to your smug friend who read You Shall Know Our Velocity, picked up Diamond Day by Vashti Bunyan after watching an advert, and is participating in the bearded revival. Or to be enjoyed anyway, with a knowing smile. In any case, Away We Go has a good heart buried within.


Away We Go, Dir. Sam Mendes, Writ. Eggers & Vida, Big Beach Films, USA, 2009
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Written by James P. Campbell

17/06/2009 at 15:06

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