Away We Go

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Sep 29, 2009
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Away We Go

Director

Sam Mendes

Release Date(s)

2009 (September 29th, 2009)

Studio(s)

Focus Films (Universal)
  • Film/Program Grade: A
  • Video Grade: B+
  • Audio Grade: B-
  • Extras Grade: C-

Away We Go (Blu-ray Disc)

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Review

Burt and Verona are an unlikely and offbeat couple in their early 30s, who are about to have their first child. Burt (The Office’s John Krasinski) is a well-meaning college drop-out who works at home selling insurance futures by phone. Verona (SNL’s Maya Rudolph) is a grounded artist who draws illustrations for medical books.

They’re not failures by any measure, but they’re not particularly successful either. They are, in a word, average. Down to earth. In other words... normal. But with their new daughter soon to arrive, Verona worries that they’re “fuck-ups” who have no roots and few friends. Burt’s parents have decided to move to abroad, and Verona’s died when she was young. So the pair sets out across the country to find a place to settle down and raise their family. As they travel from Phoenix to Tucson to Madison to Miami and even Montreal, they learn about themselves and each other... and we discover their charms. Burt and Verona aren’t perfect or idealized partners. They have their differences and their lives probably haven’t turned out the way either of them expected. But their love – and just as importantly, their friendship – holds them together. This film offers one of the most realistic portraits of a caring, healthy adult relationship I’ve seen in some time. Directed by Sam Mendes, Away We Go is unexpected, honest, funny and utterly delightful.

The high-definition video presentation on Universal’s Blu-ray is clear and accurate to the theatrical experience. Color is a bit muted by design, and detail is fair on the whole, if not particularly refined. Contrast is a bit lacking, but the overall image is nicely film-like. Audio is available in English DTS-HD MA 5.1, along with standard DTS 5.1 in French and Spanish. The DTS-HA mix is natural sounding, with nice atmospheric shading and good clarity. It’s not particularly dazzling or lively, but that’s not required for a film of this type. The film’s soundtrack, featuring music by Alexi Murdoch (who reminds me a lot of Nick Drake) and others sounds quite good. English SDH is available, as are subs in French and Spanish.

The extras included are fairly minimal. You get the usual audio commentary with the director and writers – which is fun but not required listening – as well as an EPK-style behind-the-scenes featurette, The Making of Away We Go. It’s in full HD and runs about 16 minutes, featuring on-camera interviews with Mendes and both leads. There’s also a short piece on the “green filmmaking” effort employed in making Away We Go – again full HD and about 7 minutes. That’s pretty much it, other than the usual BD-interactive My Scenes option and generic Universal BD-Live connectivity. It’s not much on the whole, but then the film doesn’t really need that much more, so it’s not really an issue. The menus offers hand-drawn animation in the style of theatrical poster art.

Away We Go is a wonderful little film – one of the best I’ve seen so far this year, and one of the better films about a relationship in recent memory. Sam Mendes is a bit hit or miss for me (I loved Road to Perdition, but wasn’t a big fan of Revolutionary Road), so I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. I think much of the credit has to go to the writing, by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, as well as fine performances by the cast. In any case, Away We Go is definitely worth renting, and I’m confident it’ll leave a smile on your face. I think it’s worth a purchase on Blu-ray too, just on the film’s merits alone, but given the lack of extras be sure to look for a good sale price.

- Bill Hunt

 

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