Away We Go

5 Feb

When I first discovered Away We Go last year, I was skeptical. Just from the packaging alone, it looked like the kind of film that I could easily pass by without harm. It had all the hallmarks of an indy film: line-sketch looking fonts for titles and credits, attractive yet normal looking characters, bright color packaging that blends real life images with mural imagery.

It appeared to be just another indy movie, or faux-indy movie, of which there are many these days. There’s a formula to them and they tend to center on middle class and privileged twentysomethings adrift in the post-college landscape and their search for meaning. That’s not to say that the narrative is not compelling, because it is. That’s why there’s so many of them. I’ve seen many of them. And some of them are good. Some very good.

Adventureland, Juno (more of a teen story, but still), and Garden State are a few examples of good films that have come out of this narrative impulse. In an economy that is increasingly brutal to even college grads and a society with a lot of social anxiety about the roles and responsibilities of young adults, it’s only natural that film would adapt to speak to that situation.

But it can be overdone. These indy (or faux indy) films that desire to give voice to the lives of regular people living regular lives sometimes create characters that become parodies of themselves. A down, to earth, conscientous guy can become a neo-hippy, emo, granola-man who wears birkenstocks and plays ultimate frisbee with his eyes close. There’s a tendency to push character types to extremes.

That’s why I was skeptical of Away We Go, even before I had seen it. From appearances, it looked like one of those films – same story, characters pushed to extremes.

But I was persuaded to view it and I ended up … loving it. It’s the reason why I was so eager to view it again with some very old and close friends this weekend.

Away We Go, as far as I can tell, breaks new ground in the indy-style by pushing the subject matter forward several years. It’s not a story of twentysomething angst; It’s the story of thirtysomething anxiety.

The supporting characters still suffer from extreme qualities, but the central couple is strikingly normal.

Away We Go centers on a committed, unmarried couple who’s getting ready to have their first child. She’s six months pregnant, and when his nearby parents decide not to stick around for their coming new grandchild, the couple embarks on a search for a new home, visiting friends and family nationwide to find a new place to settle down.

It uses the indy style to address the concerns of an audience of filmgoers who’s getting older and maturing. It also suggests that the indy style of film isn’t going anywhere anytime soon if it’s able to adapt to the changing life story of a changing audience.

In the same way that I found films about the college experience especially compelling in high school and films about young adulthood compelling in later high school and the early part of college, so now films about the late twenties and early thirties are more compelling to me. They are windows into a world I’m not a part of but will be eventually. And love it or hate, the indy style does as good of a job as any genre at describing a life stage in a honest, humble way.

Eventually, I’m sure, there will be a glut of indy style films about the thirtysomething experience. But hopefully Away We Go will be remembered as one of the first to do so, and perhaps, one of the best.


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