“Away We Go” (2009). Cast: John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Catherine O’Hara, Jeff Daniels, Allison Janney, Jim Gaffigan, Carmen Ejogo, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Josh Hamilton, Chris Messina, Melanie Lynskey, Paul Schneider; Director: Sam Mendes; Screenplay: Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida
Tales of self-discovery have long been staples of the movie industry, but they’ve usually been depicted through adolescent coming of age stories. Rarely has this idea been explored through the eyes of those who are a little older and, at least theoretically, wiser, the 20- and 30-somethings who wonder whether they’ve missed the boat of life. Thankfully, there’s a new film for those who’ve experienced the uneasiness of feeling directionless, the comedy-drama “Away We Go.”
Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) are a young unmarried couple expecting their first child. They’ve set up house in what appears to be a glorified shack, yet they seem to be doing well financially. They live near Burt’s parents, Gloria (Catherine O’Hara) and Jerry (Jeff Daniels), and they look forward to sharing the joy of their new arrival with them—that is, until the free-spirited grandparents-to-be announce they’re fulfilling their long-held dream of moving to Brussels, a month before the baby is to be born.
Burt and Verona are understandably thrown for a loop; one of the few reasons underlying their current living arrangements is now gone. This revelation thus prompts them to wonder whether they’ve screwed up their lives and to question if there isn’t something better for them elsewhere. So they hit the road to investigate other opportunities, a journey that’s as much literal as metaphorical and that allows them to witness examples of how others get by.
The couple’s trip takes them first to Phoenix, where they meet Verona’s former boss Lily (Allison Janney) and husband Lowell (Jim Gaffigan), an example of the American dream gone sadly awry. Then, in Tucson, the couple visits Verona’s younger sister Grace (Carmen Ejogo), who’s leading a successful but mostly lonely life. Next, in Madison, Burt interviews for a new job and reconnects with an old friend, LN (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a flaky professor steeped in every New Age lifestyle cliché with oh-so-sensitive househusband Roderick (Josh Hamilton). The couple then journeys to Montreal to visit Verona’s old college friends Tom (Chris Messina) and Munch (Melanie Lynskey), proud parents of a houseful of adopted children but whose apparent happiness is overshadowed by a painful secret. And then, quite unexpectedly, they travel to Miami, where Burt attempts to comfort his brother Courtney (Paul Schneider), whose wife has just abandoned him and their young daughter.
After all this travel, however, Burt and Verona still don’t have a suitable model on which to base their lives. They have plenty of examples of what not to do, but that doesn’t give them the template they need to create a happy existence for themselves. Maybe their own model would be the wisest option to pursue, but what would that be? Therein lies their challenge, but maybe it’s one that’s not as difficult to resolve as they thought.
This film is a prime example of how our beliefs evolve over time and how such evolution shapes the realities we create through the law of attraction. The depiction of this idea through a road trip movie is most fitting, too, since that story format closely parallels the evolution that our beliefs undergo in our individual journeys. Simultaneously, the picture provides ample illustrations of creation by default, the materialization of circumstances that occur when people let life happen to them rather than assertively take the reins to figure out which beliefs will yield the best results (perhaps Burt and Verona aren’t as screwed up as they thought they were).
One occasional criticism of the film has been that the character development is at times weak and/or inconsistent, that Burt and Verona are little more than undefined tour guides for carrying the story. However, most journey of discovery stories are inherently about the emergence of self-awareness of one’s beliefs and the creations that go with them. (After all, how can there be full development when that development is itself in process?) In fact, this film’s protagonists actually seem to know themselves better than they often give themselves credit for, something many of us could learn from.
“Away We Go” is a charmer from start to finish, with excellent performances by the entire cast (particularly Janney, Gaffigan, Gyllenhaal and Hamilton). Sam Mendes’s direction is back in fine form, too. The picture is, admittedly, unusual for a summer release, but it’s a welcome reprieve from the season’s typical fare.
So find your way to this film. After seeing it, you just may find new discoveries about your own road of life and the promise it holds for the future. And that’s always worth the trip.
— Copyright © 2009, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.
A lifelong movie fan and longtime student of metaphysics, free-lance writer/editor Brent Marchant is the author of Get the Picture: Conscious Creation Goes to the Movies (Moment Point Press, www.momentpoint.com). His additional writing credits include contributions to beliefnet.com and to Divine Revolution and Reality Change magazines. Brent also maintains an ongoing blog about metaphysical cinema at www.getthepicturebrentmarchant.blogspot.com. He holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Syracuse University and resides in Chicago. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.