You're a couple in your mid-30s, expecting a baby, suddenly shorn of the anchor tethering you to a hometown you're not that crazy about. Now what?
That's the conundrum confronting Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) in Sam Mendes' Away We Go, from a script by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. Burt and Verona are only a couple months away from parenthood, when Burt's parents (Jeff Daniels and Catherine O'Hara) announce that they're moving to Europe for two years -- before the baby is born.
Since being close to Burt's parents (Verona's are dead) is the only reason they've stayed in Connecticut, Burt and Verona decide to hit the road, visiting friends, siblings and relatives around the country, auditioning potential new places to relocate.
This low-key, sometimes melancholy comedy is a road movie with a twist. While this couple does have a series of misadventures, there's never a moment when they lose each other -- physically or emotionally -- only to reunite with renewed purpose. There's no break-up, no threat to their relationship, no sudden revelation. No one announces a secret terminal illness that changes their priorities.
Instead, as they spend time as houseguests with people from their past, they gain a new sense of just how well they fit together. The more people they visit, the greater this sense of the value of their relationship becomes -- because all the other people are such huge disappointments. Funny, yes -- to us as viewers -- but disillusioning to Burt and Verona as characters.
These are, after all, people whom this couple view as potential lifelines for their proposed move. If they're going to settle in a new city, they reason, they want one where they already know someone so they won't feel so alone and displaced. But each stop proves to be a miniature disaster in its own way.
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