Starring:John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Jeff Daniels, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Catherine O’ Hara
Director: Sam Mendes
Writer(s):Dave Eggers, Vendela Vida
Original Score: Alexi Murdoch
Running Time:98 Mins.
Two things of note about Away We Go, firstly it is directed by Sam Mendes, and secondly it is the first film to be made under the “Green” aesthetic, one comes with all the connotations you would expect, whilst the other does not. So let me begin by saying this is not your average Mendes screwed up relationship study, in fact Away We Go is very much the antithesis to his other film that debuted earlier this year, Revolutionary Road, rather than digging deep into the breakdown of a relationship this is very much about embracing a relationship and, thankfully, not from the initial and expected starting point.
Opening with Burt (Krasinski) and Verona (Rudolph) discovering they are to be parents, they then set off around the U.S. in the hope of finding somewhere to settle down and raise their family, preferably somewhere they know people seeing as Burt’s ‘parents have, as they explain in a very funny scene, decided to jet-set across the world to somewhere “superb” as Burt’s father (Daniels) puts it. So what follows is essentially a literal series of episodes whereby the couple come to terms with pregnancy (not that they ever have issues about it) and try to bond with various siblings and friends.
That Away We Gosegregates itself so definitively with title cards reading “away we go to…” for each section reallydoes tramples on the criticism that its episodic, so I won’t even go there, in fact I like the structure because it stops the story from ever becoming boring (as it so easily could have done, given the ponderous nature of Mendes direction) and gives it a sense of character leaving each cast member their time to shine. Yes some most are too quirky to be true and would never be found outside of the realms of indie films but given they are played with such relish by the likes of O’ Hara, Daniels and Gyllenhaal simply add to the entertainment.
Of the main coupling it is Krasinski who comes off best, however like the quirky bit-parter’s he is just too good to be true, so nice and without any foibles, he sometimes makes the more believable Rudolph seem unsavoury…simply through her realism as opposed to his angelic niceness. This though is not a huge criticism, as were they not played in this way the film would have turned into something different altogether as their relationship is the lynchpin on which the film rests.
A late attempt to introduce some drama with Burt’s brother is ill conceived and serves very little purpose to the plot as a whole, slowing down the final third rather than ushering in a conclusion and you just know that the film was never going to end anything other than happy, a nice change for Mendes and a strong indicator of the films “green” sensibilities however given Mendes strong signature and without his usual cinematographer the directors signature style becomes all but lost meaning that this could almost be the film of a first time director. This fact has both its good and bad points, proving Mendes has range but given that I enjoy his films for their depth and signature, somehting missing both these feels a little like an experiment or time out for someone much more accomplished than the material makes available to him.
Nice, would be the best way to describe Away We Go, not the most enthusiastic reccommendation but a pleasurable experience of very little consequence none the less, feels like a leisurely break for Mendes while Krasinski proves a likeable lead.