Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: John Krasinski, Maya Randolph, Jeff Daniels, Catherine O’Hara
Watch Away We Go online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
“I will always love you. Even if you get so fat I can’t find your vagina.” Filmed on the quick during Revolutionary Road’s post-production, Away We Go is one of those films about a couple expecting a baby. But forget the cynical screenplays you usually see. Following Leo and Kate’s painful fallout, this was the perfect antidote. Sam Mendes’ movie is an endearing thing: a romantic comedy with real romance.
Yes, Burt (Krasinski) and Verona (Randolph) are in love. They’ve been in love for many years and will still be in love for decades to come. It might sound sickly, but their obvious attachment isn’t annoying: it’s incredibly lovely. So when they visit Burt’s parents, they’re surprised to learn that they’re both moving, one month before the baby’s due. To Belgium. Plunged into chaos, Burt and Verona resolve to traverse the country, searching for somewhere to start up their new home.
Skipping between states, their trek takes them on a tour of family, friends and loved ones, each in some way entertaining or educational. It’s a basic formula for a feature film, but Dave Egger’s droll script (co-written with partner Vendela Vida) isn’t afraid of being quaint and cute. And so we get a checklist of character stereotypes, from the entertaining, disloyal dad (Daniels) and mum (O’Hara), to the inspiredly hippy turn by Maggie Gyllenhaal. (“I hate strollers. Why would I want to push my baby away?”) It’s a series of scenarios that you would only encounter in an offbeat rom-com, but through it all, Burt and Verona are so warm and winning that it all works wonderfully.
Krasinski, perhaps still best known as Martin Freeman’s counterpart in the American version of The Office, is incredibly likeable. Sporting specs and a bushy beard, he’s upbeat, optimistic and puts on a macho phone voice for his telesales work. Maya Randoplh, too, is positively charming, reminding us why she deserves more leading roles.
Behind the camera, Sam Mendes doesn’t make a wrong move. Putting Alexi Murdoch on the car radio and hitting the road, every second he shoots is spot-on, with a delicate and easygoing intimacy. Waiting for that perfect final frame to fade out, it’s easy to overlook how well-crafted each moment is, whether it’s on a trampoline or in a doorway. Clearly devoted to each other, the pair live their life in a feel-good bubble. Even when they argue, it’s hilariously forced. As far as un-edgy, happy stuff goes, this is soft-nosed, soppy and absolutely superb.