Recently we saw the release of American indie flick Stuck in Love – a film about a socially awkward youngster, totally bereft of confidence, but one far too mawkish and pretentious to take at all seriously. Now Nat Faxon and Jim Rash present The Way, Way Back, which attempts much of the same thing, however where the aforementioned title suffers miserably, this gets it spot on.
The kid in question is Duncan (Liam James), a 14-year-old who is dragged away on a summer vacation with his mother (Toni Collette) and her authoritarian boyfriend (Steve Carell). Struggling to enjoy himself or make any new friends among the local teenagers, he spends a lot of time at a local water park, where he meets Owen (Sam Rockwell). Their unlikely friendship blossoms, and when Duncan is given a part-time job at the enclosure, this seemingly monotonous holiday could well prove to be the best summer he’s ever had.
The Way, Way Back is a really touching picture, and though nothing particularly groundbreaking, it does exactly what it sets out to achieve. You care for Duncan and desperately hope things go well for him. Faxon and Rash – who also wrote the movie – have really captured that spontaneous, euphoric feeling of a holiday romance, particularly when you’re young and you have what you perceive to be the best time of your life, where nostalgia kicks in no less than five minutes after it comes to and end. They also capture all of those little moments of social awkwardness in life to a tee, with some uncomfortable scenes born out of those unfavourable instances we all share every day.
The performances across the board are fantastic too, with James shining in the lead role. He plays Duncan with such conviction and a believability which makes it difficult to imagine him ever being just a normal kid, which is the sign of a triumphant performance. However the show is stolen by Rockwell, as you completely fall for his character, just wanting him to be your friend in real life – in a similar vein to how Jason Segel comes across in I Love You, Man. Meanwhile Carell ensures we have a clean sweep of impressive performances, showing off his ability to tread that line between comedy and drama so well, in a somewhat different role to what we have seen him in before.
The Way, Way Back is an extremely difficult film to dislike, as one that has an amiable tone and series of endearing characters. Though often predictable at times, you can’t help but welcome the moments you had anticipated, in what is a really well rounded film that will leave you smiling all the way, way, back home.