“Away We Go” (2009)– “Relationships are hard.” – Everybody
“Life is hard.” – Almost everybody
For Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph), their relationship and life in general are hard, but more the latter. Burt sells insurance, but not straight-up medical, auto, or home. He sells insurance futures. What? (Yea, he explains it, but I still don’t get it.) Anyways, he’s struggling to earn a lucrative salary, which becomes problematic when his long-time girlfriend, Verona, becomes pregnant. Since they’re 33 years young and “don’t have basic stuff figured out,” Verona asks, “Are we screw-ups?”
For reasons that won’t be explained here, they determine that they have nothing to lose. Rather than live near Burt’s parents, North America is their geography oyster! These two 30-somethings can start over anywhere, so they strategically pick four spots to reside potentially, and we join them on their cross countries’ journey.
“Away We Go” carries a couple of themes about growing up and the fear of having your first child. Director Sam Mendes (“American Beauty” (1999), “Skyfall” (2012), “1917” (2019)) explores these ideas during a New York Public Radio interview on June 5, 2009, but also discusses the importance of one’s hometown.
“(The film) is a very sly exploration of the notion of what constitutes a home and how you find your identity and how that’s linked into where you live,” Mendes says.
Since his road-trip movie steers his leads in multiple, vastly different locales, Mendes and screenwriters Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida have opportunities to introduce curious or oddball characters along the way. Of course, the film features some big-time recognizable faces in memorable supporting roles. (I won’t reveal the well-chosen cameos here.)
Sure, it’s a screenplay gimmick, but a worthwhile one, and family is the common theme on all stops, not necessarily (always) Burt’s and Verona’s clans, but the varying concepts and perspectives on it.
With two seasoned comic actors, there’s no doubt that Krasinski and Rudolph deliver some funny moments. Since Rudolph’s character is pregnant and coping with the stresses that go along with it, she’s primarily the straight woman, while Krasinski plays off Verona’s anxieties. For instance, Verona expresses concern that their baby-girl-to-be’s heart rate is a slightly lower than normal, so Burt – several times – attempts to amp up her blood pressure for her health and our smile-inducing delight.
The “Saturday Night Live” (1975 – Present) and “The Office” (2005 – 2013) stars have miles and miles of chemistry here! Burt and Verona encounter routine mishaps on their trek, but their quirky underdog personas – to address problems – shine in the most unexpected moments.
Mendes’ film is a couple’s coming-of-age story rather than a laugh-out-loud comedy, and with a 90-minute runtime and a straightforward premise, he doesn’t attempt too much here. He nicely stays in his lane, the on-screen work flourishes, and Alexi Murdoch pitches in with five beautiful, earthy tracks to accompany our flawed heroes. Murdoch’s music may trigger some tears, and this movie will undoubtedly prompt cheers for this pair of (possible) screw-ups.
When it comes to relationships and life, aren’t we all, at least a little bit.
Yes, you too.
⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Written by: David Eggers and Vendela Vida
Starring: John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph
Runtime: 90 minutes
Image credits: Focus Features