Review: Away We Go (2009)

Directed by: Sam Mendes
Starring: John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Jeff Daniels

With the birth of their first child looming on the horizon, Burt and Verona begin to reevaluate the state of their lives in Burt’s native Colorado when his parents inform them of their plans to live in another country. Deciding to do what’s best for the baby, the couple begins their journey from place to place in order to find a suitable birthplace. Encountering a multitude of offbeat friends and family members along the way, Burt and Verona find the decision to not be as easy as they initially thought it to be, thus resulting in a bump or two that inevitably contribute to their maturation as a couple and soon-to-be parents.

Ah, the independent romantic comedy. As with most films classified as such, Away We Go can very well be considered yet another entry into this ever-expanding genre thanks to an overwhelming sense of quirkiness. While this doesn’t sound like the most original aspect of any script nowadays, writers Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida provide us with a wholly original story to counteract this, thus making said quirks as enjoyable as can be. Unfortunately, what the film ultimately suffers from is a general lack of cohesiveness thanks to its overly fractured narrative, of which jets us from location to location without any sort of reasoning outside of our two leads merely searching for a suitable birthplace for their unborn child.

An overall unevenness of tone further plagues the film in this regard, and as it progresses, showcases this sort of pattern that starts out with some upbeat, heartfelt interaction with friends and family, then quickly descends into a borderline soul-crushing state of depression. Granted, I found this approach quite appealing, but in a sense I felt the writers and director Mendes ended up taking the easy way out, spending more time fleshing out some excessively quirky characters than providing us with an altogether pleasurable experience. However, Mendes does indeed do his best with the material, and although the film’s conclusion may be a tad predictable like the structure it conforms to, it’s still very appropriate and above all, satisfying.

Krasinski and Rudolph are, surprisingly enough, very convincing as leads and exhibit some truly funny and heartfelt chemistry with one another, of which helps us get over Away We Go‘s more downcast moments. Given its overt sense of quirkiness, the film’s supporting cast really steps up in providing us with more of this sense of humor that further aids in keeping it from taking itself a little too seriously. All in all, I’d say a good amount of the film’s appeal lies within the efforts of the cast, Krasinski especially, which is a definite plus given the faults I’ve outlined.

To wrap it up, Away We Go is yet another standard approach to indie filmmaking that ends up being a step ahead of the competition thanks to a pretty intelligent story and terrific casting. While the emotional back-and-forth structure of the narrative and its fractured state may be off-putting at times, Mendes swoops in to save the day with his always favorable directorial touch. To say the film is one of this year’s best though would be fairly inaccurate, but I’d say it’s still worth recommending on my part.

Rating: 7/10

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