The modern coming of age story can easily revolve around the concerns of middle-class thirty-somethings, don't you think? I mean, if 30 is the new 20, then this is just as much a locus of uncertainty as adolescence in the age of Catcher in the Rye. More, in fact. Youngsters are so busy these days studying and earning a living that they don't have much time to ponder the great unknowables.
Burt Farlander (John Krasinski, pic) and Verona De Tessant (Maya Rudolph) in Away We Go (dir. Sam Mendes, 2009) are at that stage of indecision. Unmarried because Verona will not marry Burt if her parents can't be present and her parents are dead, she is six-months pregnant when they discover that Burt's parents, who live nearby somewhere in the semi-rural expanses of broad America, plan to relocate to Antwerp for two years. Why stay, asks Verona. Why not check out other places before the baby arrives?
The angst is sweetly but embarrassingly palpable. "Are we fuck-ups?" asks Verona on a cold evening when the electric heater has blown the house's fuse. "We've got a cardboard window!"
But as they travel from Phoenix to Tuscon, from Madison (WI) to Montreal to Miami, they discover something. It's not something about themselves, exactly. Or, not directly. What they find is that other peoples' problems make their own pale into insignificance.
Verona's ex-boss is a loudmouthed, frustrated housewife whose children don't listen any more. Burt's old family friend is a vegan Nazi who can't abide baby strollers and whose husband is a no-good layabout. Verona's friend in Montreal keeps having miscarriages and the strain of yearning for a genetically-related child is tearing the marriage apart. And in Miami, Burt's brother's wife has just run out on him, leaving their little girl bereft.
'Home' reads the final interstitial. As Burt's claped-out Volvo sedan rolls down the green paddock in front of this dreamed-of house, it rocks gently from side to side against the lay of the uneven ground. Inside the car's dingy cabin, however, Verona and Burt are secure. They love each other. When they finally open the back doors of the huge Southern mansion to view the river outside and enjoy the play of the breeze across the lawn, they collapse in a contented heap on the verandah.
Dave Eggers, of San Francisco literary fame, is a co-writer on this lovely little production. Those who know of him through his novels will recognise the deep humanity that motivates him, and enriches his work. This is a gem of a film, and comes highly recommended.