What's Wrong With A Stroller?: Away We Go (2009)

In the wake of the seeming success of Skyfall, a film I have yet to watch and as reflection of the relevance American Beauty seems to lose as the decades continue, I was somewhat surprised upon beginning Away We Go to discover that it was directed by Sam Mendes, who has director credits for the previously mentioned and critically celebrated films.  I am uncertain as to why Away We Go managed to accrue much less praise considering that I found it to be incredibly provocative, well-executed and perhaps one of the most difficult films to watch without immediately exuding a heavy emotional response.  It combines all the sentimentality, quirkiness and obscure guitar heavy music one could desire from an indie film, yet with a director like Mendes at the wheel and well established comedic actors the film transcends this genre cornering both in its mainstream qualities as well as its vibrancy.  The actors in this film, most of which are playing considerably self-loathing characters, deliver performances of such a high degree that it cannot, and should not be ignored.  I would venture to pair this film with something like Up In The Air, although Away We Go focuses on a considerably younger group of people, nonetheless, it manages to tap into the life force of those it studies with such earnestly and vigor that it makes for a insanely watchable film.  It also does not hurt that the film is visually alluring and delivers some of the most jarringly beautiful cinematography one could ever excpect from a film which sells itself as a light comedy.  I actually wonder if it is not the terrible misappropriation of this film as a comedic piece that caused its initial demise, because while I certainly laughed loudly at moments throughout Away We Go its larger context and motifs reflect the most tragic of human moments, ones that seem doomed to continue and it suggest that only those with the strongest of love can transcend the absurdity, however, escaping such physical attachments still takes little account of the emotional and mental strains such a framework causes.

Away We Go begins with a couple discovering that they are to have a child, the couple Verona (Maya Rudolph) and Burt (John Krasinski) remain unmarried, although they are clearly mad about each other, an act that is a direct honor to Verona's parents who died when she was only twenty-two.  The realization that their lives will change irreversibly after the birth of their child, Verona and Burt plan a trip accross The United States and into Canada with the hopes of discovering the perfect place to raise their child, a decision heavily influenced by the announcement that Burt's parents will be moving to Belgium well before the birth of the child.  This trip allows for both Verona and Burt to reflect on their own relationship and what they have achieved with their young adult lives, which becomes quite blatant between each group they meet.  The first two people, one of which was a former coworker of Verona consume alcohol feverishly and demean their kids as they clearly live through their own disillusionment, blaming everyone but themselves for their unhappiness.  Verona's sister Grace (Carmen Ejogo) seeks solace within her sister, while also displaying some degree of jealousy towards what she sees between Burt and Verona.  In a meet-up with Burt's half-sister LN (Maggie Gyllenhaal) the couple realize the disaster that is "new age" parenting, a method in which LN and her partner Roderick (Josh Hamilton) seem far more concerned with embracing their own miseries and desires than providing any sense of normalcy for their children.  When they meet another couple, old college friends, they witness the problems of miscarriage and desire to fill a void of loss.  Even during an unexpected trip to Burt's brother adds a layer to their understanding of live, as they help him through the devastation of his wife's unexpected leaving of him and his daughter.  Defeated and more confused than ever Verona and Burt fall asleep on a trampoline and awake to decide that their best course of action is to return home and raise their child, although we are not quite sure in the closing moments of the film where exactly that home may be.

This film poignantly captures the woes of growing up in a world that problematically embraces individualized misery.  The characters noted above, all exist in their own severe depressions and become so preoccupied with the disdain that it causes them to distance themselves from one another.  This causes each to resort to some degree of false fulfillment, whether it be alcohol or hyper-protective parenting.  Even with some one like LN, viewers are shown a person who is so concerned with creating a cozy and unified existence with their child that they create a humongous bed for the who family to share, not realizing the irony in making such a large sleeping space, an act that has inherent intimacy about it.  Of course,  the exception to this action within the film comes through Verona and Burt, and while they are certainly individuals, there actions are often extensions of one another.  It is only when Verona reflects on her parents death that she steps away from Burt for any length of time, often waiting until he is either on the phone with clients or sleeping as to not suggest a separation from him.  It is actually their incredible closeness blended with an ability to organically separate and unify as necessary that allows for Burt and Verona to move throughout the film, eventually growing above everyone else pain and suffering.  They often contest whether they are growing up properly and worry about their futures in relation to those they have viewed, yet, one cannot help but feel as though their reassurance and comfort allows for fears to be quickly overcome and shared happiness to be explosively shared, as we see in the closing, heart-wrenchingly beautiful scene.  They choose to go about their lives, in both misery and happiness together, as opposed to the individualized concerns of those they encountered previously, made all the more pertinent by the fact that they are able to do so even without the ties of marriage.

Key Scene:  The closing moments of this film are exceptional and a worthy conclusion to such a fantastic and criminally underrated film.

The bluray for this is quite magnificent and incredibly cheap, a copy is essential.

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