Imagine you’re enjoying a hot cup of Joe at the trendiest, most eco-friendly coffee shop in town. In one of the corners, an ultra hip hipster strums his acoustic guitar and sings Phillip Phillips’ “Home” in a soothing, laid back manner, which provides for a nice meditative atmosphere. And as you sip at your brew for over an hour and a half, you overhear a spattering of very intimate conversations between a diversity of young adults. Some of these conversations are bizarrely funny, some are deadly serious, and others are just outright strange. This is how I’d describe the tone of Away We Go (Sam Mendes, 2009), a road-trip romantic comedy that tends to be more of a drama than a comedy, with subject matter that surrounds a young couple who are urgently trying to figure out the best way to raise their soon-to-be newborn child. Luckily, these unorthodox characters have a great sense of humor and share an even better chemistry, which helps us navigate through this serious material.
The end result is a cozy, yet intimate movie that poses two universal questions. The first is, what is home? Is it simply a collection of things and people stuffed between four walls in a specific place? Or is it something more? If it is something more, what is it and how would you describe it? The other question, which is perhaps more elusive, is what’s the best way to raise a child and start a family? These basic, fundamental questions are what the main characters are exploring throughout, as they travel from place to place, with each new locale providing a different perspective on these inquiries. Interestingly enough, what these characters reflect is a new, up-and-coming generation who are seemingly untethered from the traditions of the past, and who are searching for perhaps a newer, better way.
What they ultimately discover utilizing this open-minded approach is that on one hand “home” is not just a collection of stuff accumulated in a certain location, rather that STUFF is just the raw materials that creates a foundation. What holds all of this together, what makes it a “home” regardless of where it is or what is actually in it— is love. Home is where love is, and in theory, love can be anywhere, shared between anyone. Now, regarding the other question (how to best raise a child and start a family), their discovery is two-fold. On one level, Away We Go suggests that the traditions that have been laid before us are indeed the best way to raise a child and start a family. They are tried and trued. But on a contrasting level, it simultaneously claims that some of those traditions are demonstrably flawed. “Bad parents still get to be bad parents.” With this, the filmmakers seem to be suggesting that there is no answer. Because, inevitably, the question becomes, “what is best?” Define “best.” And “best” is relative. So, of course there is no answer because there is no one right way. There is only your way. You can only do the best you can. You hope that you’re lucky. You hope you know the answers. You hope you teach the right lessons. You hope that you’re not a fuck up. And regardless of the methodology you employ and eventually pass on, at the end of the day there is but one thing you can consistently hope to bank on: home.