Away We Go (2009)
Burt Freelander (John Krasinski) and Verona De Tessant (Maya Rudolph) are expecting their first child (hilariously determined during the opening scene). They had moved near Burt’s hippy parents for support after the birth but at month 6, Gloria (Catherine O’Hara) and Jerry Freelander (Jeff Daniels) spring the news that they’re moving to Antwerp for 2 years. So, with no reason to stay in Colorado anymore, Burt and Verona decide to travel to various places where friends and family live to decide where they want to relocate.
Should it be Phoenix to be near Verona’s old boss, Lily (Allison Janney)? Hmmm, maybe not as Lily is spectacularly crude and loud in public. Or near Verona’s sister Grace (Carmen Egojo) with whom Verona has a wonderfully portrayed relationship? Still not sure, the two head to Madison where Burt’s interviewing for a job and where a childhood friend and her husband live. LN (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Roderick (Josh Hamilton) are as New Age as you can get. But Verona and Burt are horrified at the lengths to which these two carry their self righteous lifestyle. So, maybe not there.
Montreal, where Burt and Verona learn the heartbreaking loses suffered by their friends who seem to have such a happy family? Or Miami where they comfort Burt’s brother whose wife just left him to be the one to raise their daughter alone? Or is there some other place just waiting for the couple to call home?
Director Sam Mendes manages to capture the essence of each character in short but intense sequences. The only constants throughout the story are Burt and Verona but the secondary cast are fabulous in the allotted time each has. The set and costume designers also do a wonderful job of helping to set the mood and capturing who these people are supposed to be.
The story contains sweet, subtle humor along with laugh out loud moments – such as when Burt takes his revenge, via a stroller, on LN’s cutting comments. But then it’ll switch to the emotional depths of miscarriages without piling on the pathos. Lily is hilariously crass in scenes that’ll make you cringe even as you’re laughing. While Burt’s brother conveys his anger at his departed wife and his worries about being up to the task of raising his daughter alone when he frets about being able to fix her hair. There are a ton of little things, little touches which, gathered into a whole, make me believe in these people – both who they are and in their relationships to each other.
The best relationship, by far, is that of Burt and Verona. Verona obviously loves Burt in spite of his fashion sense and lack of a hairstyle. While Burt is so determined to be the best dad he can – the kind who makes stuff and knows knots and isn’t afraid to raise the baby’s heart rate. He has a line which captured me. “You’re my light, Verona. My sky.” They question themselves and what they’re doing in ways that expectant parents have done for eons. Are we ready? Will we be good parents? They make what promises they can and then agree to live with them. And when the two finally find their Home, it feels right. No, it’s not a place that everyone would love but as these two sit together, gazing into the future it’s perfect and perfect for them.