by Bree Perlman
The saying “Home is where the heart is” takes on new meaning in Away We Go, a romantic comedy for the unaffected. Burt (the irresistibly charming John Krasinski) and Verona (a perfectly quirky Maya Rudolph) are a smart, modern (she doesn’t see the point in marriage), unconventional (and refuses to marry him) couple who discover through one of the film’s funniest moments, that they are having a baby. A series of circumstances free them up to go in search of a place to start their new family.
After the torturous look at love gone wrong with Revolutionary Road, Sam Mendes has pulled a 180, using Away We Go to celebrate a rare kind of love between two people who seem to fulfill every cliche known to man (and woman) about completion and one-ness ever created. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film so unapologetically committed to the notion of love.
Encased in the lyrics of Alexi Murdoch’s lovelorn soundtrack, Verona and Burt don’t just look at each other, they melt into each other. There is a sense that they genuinely don’t need anyone else. Living in what seems to be the middle of nowhere, when Verona tells her sister in an early phone conversation that the couple has plans that evening she responds with a genuinely surprised, “You two?” They have built a sacred world where each is free to be weird and un-cool and try their hand at funny even it if doesn’t work. Through this unique relationship, they have largely removed any outside pressures to be anything else. Burt’s not getting a job means about as much as forgetting to pick up milk. Verona’s “disappearing vagina” is a new and exciting challenge. In what is arguably a non-plot, the film’s drama is centered around the couple’s testing out of their force field of unwavering comfort and devotion in various states and allowing a selected few of the world’s insufficient and flailing lovers to bounce off of it. Mendes coaxes a few standout performances from these couples, including a particularly mouth dropping Maggie Gyllenhaal as a self-possessed new age mother, and a few dramatic exchanges between the super couple and the averages, are very funny. But that’s about it as far as drama goes. And where most reviewers have come down on the film and Mendes. It’s also why many theater goers might feel compelled to run from the theater screaming. Admittedly, I experienced both. And then, I had another…experience. One that required an uncomfortable opening up, a squirm-inducing embrace, and finally, full-tilt acceptance of the film’s preciousness.
Anyone that has attempted to brave love knows how difficult it truly is. And even if you do find the one, there are all those other factors-being in the same “place” mentally, physically, childhood fears, adult fears, baggage-the chances that you will both line us is well, not a promising proposition. The whole love business is as much a fine art as it is a science, one which few in this world have truly mastered. In this sense, watching a couple who seems to have achieved such a feat is compelling enough, much a like a rare jewel in a museum that warrants nothing more than a glass case for which to peer into. (of course the film ends before the possibility of their tiring of each other’s smiles and quirks, become suffocated, and begin sleeping in separate rooms). It’s hard to appreciate the stripped down not-ness of a film like this one. It’s hard to slow down and contemplate such pure possibility. It’s hard not to puke at precious. But it’s worth a try.