AWAY WE GO is a great step forward for Sam Mendes, whose previous directorial efforts (AMERICAN BEAUTY, REVOLUTION ROAD) have been story-boarded and designed to within an inch of their lives. In this film, he hangs loose, allowing his story and characters room to breathe. The movie looks and feels lo-rent, almost casually thrown together, rather than distracting us with a high-gloss finish. Great.
Problem is, Sam Mendes hasn't moved beyond his other fatal flaw as a director - being patronising. I have yet to see a Mendes movie that does carry with it an air of smug self-satisfaction. AWAY WE GO features John Krasinki and Maya Rudolph - two actors better known for comic roles on TV - in a semi-serious character driven drama. They are well-adjusted, right-thinking, warm-hearted, in-love and pregnant. When his parents decided to move to Antwerp on the eve of the birth of their child, this prompts a crisis. Well, no, they are too banal to ever have a crisis. Rather, the young couple are concerned that they haven't figured out how and, indeed, where, to live. So follows a road trip, visiting friends and family, hoping to learn.
The couple are basically good people (and indeed, are portrayed by good actors). As shown here, they don't really have anything to learn. This is a road-trip with no real emotional journey. The couple are confronted with a series of increasingly caricatured couples, and it's a no-brainer that these are not the guys to learn from. In particular, the hippie couple depicted by Maggie Gyllenhaal and Josh Hamilton were so absurd they completely took me out of the film. And then it all winds up with an ending that is as schmaltzy as it unbelievable.
AWAY WE GO was released earlier this year in the US, Canada, Greece, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Israel and the Netherlands. It is currently on release in the UK and opens next week in Belgium. It opens in October in Finland, Norway, Germany, Australia, and Romania. It opens in November in New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden, Argentina and Spain. It opens in Russia on December 10th.