Verona De Tessant: Was I topless in it?
Burt Farlander: Yes.
From the moment you see this dilapidated shack of a house, you think how could anyone live here? There is a light on inside so someone must live there. Who could possibly though? It looks as though it could fall in on itself at any moment. And then you see the inside. There is a tool and workstation in the bedroom! What hapless losers call this dump home? Well, that would be Burt Farlander and Verona De Tessant (John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph) and when you meet them, you realize instantly that they deserve so much better. They’re good people who are trying to find their place who haven’t realized yet that they don’t have to stay in one place to find it. They are also just now, both in their early 30’s, waking up to the reality of their adult life and seeing that they’ve got a lot more work to do than they thought. And so away they go in search of a real home in Sam Mendes’s “Away We Go”.
It might have been the decrepit yet necessary space heater in the living room or the cardboard box that was doubling as a window in the kitchen but it was a lot more likely that it was Verona’s unexpected pregnancy that tipped the couple off. There comes a point in time in our lives when we can no longer just get by on our youthful charms, when we must take specific action to fashion our lives into something we can grow into security or a legacy. That time is now for Burt and Verona. After Burt’s parents (Catherine O’Hara and Jeff Daniels) inform the twosome that they are moving to Belgium for two years, they realize that there is no reason for them to continue living in Colorado as they were only doing so to be close to his parents. All too often, we resign ourselves to what we know and avoid venturing past our safety zones out of fear of the unknown or because of just plain complacency but Burt and Verona have just realized that there is nothing remotely safe about their particular zone. Worse yet, it isn’t home.
This charming road trip film is winning and touching despite its formulaic trappings. After leaving Colorado, Burt and Verona go to Phoenix, Madison and Miami. They even make their way north of the border to Montreal. At each spot, they visit with friends and family in hopes of feeling a connection that might make them want to move there. The premise is inherently episodic as each of these people they meet with has children already and they each have different approaches to proper parenting. There is always something to learn and Mendes does nothing to mask the transparency of their journey. What he does is allow seasoned character actors like O’Hara and Daniels, or Maggie Gyllenhaal, Alison Janney and Chris Messina to bring sincerity and depth to what would otherwise be hollow shells. And with the unavoidably likable Krasinski and the refreshingly honest Rudolph taking us on this ride, even long lulls on the road pass by like a breeze.
“Away We Go” is the kind of film that makes me wish I had someone to get out there and look for a home with. Burt and Verona are something of a dying breed today. The love they have for each other is deep but practical and at no point in time does either take for granted that they will make it through to the other side without having to do a little work to get there. They also don’t take it all so seriously so as much as they work, they play just as hard. The way in which they play is what gives “Away We Go” a warmth that I’ve only known from one place before… home.
Review by Joseph Bélanger