Away We Go
Most of us are aware of many young couples who are living together in a committed relationship, but not married. We probably know some of these couples. The new comedy, Away We Go, is the story of one such couple, Burt and Verona (well played by John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph) are such a couple, intelligent and loving. In their 30’s, Verona discovers she is pregnant. Feeling uncertain about their parenting skills, they feel fortunate to live near Burt’s parents who can serve as role models. (Verona’s parents died while she was in college.) In the middle of a hilarious dinner with Burt’s parents (his father begins grace by addressing God as “Gatherer of Animals”), they announce, out of the blue, that they plan to move to Belgium. Feeling abandoned, Burt and Verona begin to visit friends and relatives from Phoenix to Montreal to Miami, trying to find the best place for their new family.
Thus begins a series of funny episodes in which Burt and Verona visit a series of siblings and college friends, each with their own quirks. The funniest is a visit to Verona’s college friends who believe that their children should be held physically close to the parents as often as possible. Thus, they consider Burt and Verona’s gift of a stroller to be an abhorrent tool used to push children away from their parents! Another couple they visit would be great parents, but is unable to have children. Finally, Burt and Verona travel to visit his brother in Miami, whose wife has just left him and their daughter.
Director Sam Mendes has examined American family life before, most notably in the Oscar winning American Beauty. He is no less perceptive in Away We Go, even though the tone is lighter and funnier than his previous work. Yet Mendes and screenwriters Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida still manage great observations in a society where anything goes in marriage and family life. Despite their anxieties about parenthood, Burt and Verona look a lot more normal than anyone else they visit on their journey.
At one point, Burt and Verona are asked the obvious question: Why aren’t you married? Burt would like to marry, and has proposed to Verona on several occasions. Verona sees no need for marriage. The fact that her deceased parents would not be able to attend her wedding is partly responsible for her feelings about marriage. But, her feelings are deeper than that. Verona just does not see a need for the institution of marriage, like many other contemporary couples. In a touching scene on a trampoline, Burt and Verona pledge their faithfulness to one another and their pledge to be parents together. So, in their own way, they do make their own “wedding vows,” in reaction to a world which is both unfair and even tragic. Finally, Burt and Verona end their journey when they realize the right place for them to call home and raise their child. Like Dorothy, they find there’s no place like home.
Away We Go is helped enormously by a great supporting cast of familiar actors, having fun with their offbeat characters, including Catherine O’Hara and Jeff Daniels as Burt’s parents, as well as Allison Janney and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
For its humor and wry observation of young couples dealing with marriage and parenthood, Away We Go is well worth the ride.
Tom Condon, OP
This film was not reviewed by the USCCB Film Office