Edinburgh Film Festival: Away We Go review

Carl gives his views on Sam Mendes' latest, Away We Go, with a great star turn from The Office star John Krasinski

The opening film of the 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival is the next addition to Sam Mendes’ filmography, Away We Go, in which the indie world once again gets tackled by a big name in cinema. Sam Mendes’ films have taken the world to the Gulf War and the mob, and showed his range of masterful emotional cinema. So clearly, when he tackles a comedy, albeit one with big dramatic elements, it’s going to immediately have its critics calling it ‘the worst Sam Mendes film’. Aren’t you lucky to have me here? I haven’t seen more than half of one of them!

Away We Go focuses on couple Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph), who are about to have their first child. With Burt’s parents moving to Belgium and Verona’s parents dead, Burt and Verona are all on their own. That’s when they decide to travel around the USA to find the perfect place to start a family. Along the way they come across old friends and their families, at each place judging the merits and faults that they see.

The tender relationship between Burt and Verona is one of utterly mushy proportions, thankfully, not in a way that feels forced or faked, but like the beginnings of a family. It is the core purpose of the film, but it never feels overbearing when it comes to the surrounding story, which is that of the supporting cast. Whether it’s Burt’s parents, played excellently by Catherine O’Hara and Jeff Daniels, the crazy drunk mom played by Allison Janney, or a brilliantly psycho turn from Maggie Gyllenhaal, they all bring their own brilliance to the table and ramp up the game with every character. In truth, even with all these brilliant comedic performances, there’s one that trumps every one throughout the whole film. John Krasinski takes a good twenty minutes to get into his groove, but from then on he turns himself into the comedic centre of the film, and becomes the master of the comedy and drama indie mix.

With no other work of Mendes’ to compare it too, all I can judge it with is a fresh pair of eyes. My eyes told me many things during this film, not the least of which is that Mendes is very good at his job, setting up some absolutely stunning shots throughout. If anything, this film would give me faith that a director this good, has lent his hand to a variety of different projects, and still comes up trumps every time.

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Away We Go is a lovely, funny, natural film, and even if you can smell the ending thirty minutes in, the execution and the entire film still make it worthwhile. It’s one of the best efforts I’ve seen at the festival so far, so don’t listen to the jaded Mendes lovers who can’t take a laugh, and enjoy this film for all it’s worth.

Keep up to date with all my first reactions on Twitter at www.twitter.com/stuxmusic.


4 out of 5