If you’re expecting another American Beauty or Revolutionary Road from Sam Mendes’ latest offering, then you’re in for a surprise. Away We Go is best described as a whimsical, light-hearted comedy, in which a couple in their thirties travel across North America in the hope of finding a suitable place in which to live and raise their soon-to-be-born child. Along the way they are witness to a diverse range of often bizarre parenting techniques.
Thus begins a sequence of what are essentially self enclosed chapters within the film’s narrative, in which the likeable couple visit family and friends in the hope of finding somewhere to settle. The film ambles along amiably, entirely free of tension or worry that the couple will struggle in their endeavour; the films more dramatic moments belong to other couples.The nature of Burt and Verona’s relationship is incredibly refreshing; Mendes depicts them as two people who are simply in love, who understand one another and genuinely get along. Both are excited for the impending birth and are determined to be good parents.The films weaker moments lie in the clichéd friends and family, who feel like extreme caricatures of stock film characters, like Verona’s former boss Lily who critiques her children cruelly in front of them, or Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character, LN, a feminist Gender Studies lecturer, who breastfeeds another parent’s child and believes it is wrong to hide her and her partners sexuality from their children. Ultimately, in the midst of these extreme personalities, Verona and Burt stand as the only relatable characters, due in part to their normality in comparison and their affection for one another. It’s hard to come to a concrete verdict on a film that has such a deliberate apathetic approach. There’s very little plot and very little character development, yet this never hinders the films ability to entertain its audience.