The Way Way Back (2013) Review


The issue with coming of age dramas is we all know the stories and can usually predict the ending. The Way, Way Back subtly acknowledges this by not changing a thing in the story and instead setting out to explore the nature of interactions - or lack of them, in many cases.

Liam James plays Duncan, a quirky 14 year old, on summer vacation with with mum, mum's boyfriend Trent, and mom's boyfriend's daughter, Steph. Duncan's ventures out to get away from the increasing tedious activities and conversations of this mum's boyfriend's friends and also to avoid confrontations with the overbearing brute himself (subtly played by Steve Carell). He meets Owen (Sam Rockwell) who takes him under his wing at the water park he manages. Duncan experiences the ups and downs of blooming teenage, leading to a the usual increases in confidence and confrontations.

The joy of The Way, Way Back is not the story or production or directing. This film's genius comes from it's dialogue and well crafted interplay of characters. It doesn't sell out to cheese and ham; it doesn't pander to a specific audience. It stays with Duncan and keeps him real, from beginning to end. Liam James deserves a big-up for being able to hold that incredulous, confused teenage look in scene after scene without it becoming repetitive.

There is an burgeoning romance with a neighbour's daughter, Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb; Bridge to Terabithia, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Jumper) but the central theme here is the poignant interplay of interactions between Duncan and Trent, and the through-line of Owen.

I want to finish by saying nothing more than I would have been happy to watch the whole thing over again as soon as it finished!




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