The Way Way Back is a typical ‘coming of age’ tale about a teenage boy who is struggling with the break-up of his family and the introduction of the step-relations. The film begins by introducing our protagonist Duncan (Liam James) as the tormented geek, and the supremo jerk step-father Trent played by Steve Carell whilst driving to his holiday home by the coast for the summer. It’s clear from the off that Trent is the embodiment of everything that can go wrong when families collide, with snide comments and power struggles abounding. Audiences with experience in step-families will instantly identify with the trying-to-please-everyone mother, the apparently-overconfident-but-secretly-insecure-and-jealous step-father, and unaccommodating step-siblings.
The plot gets a needed kick in the right direction when Duncan discovers the nearest waterpark and its owner Owen played by Sam Rockwell. Owen instantly takes a liking to Duncan, taking him under his wing and giving him employment for the summer. Duncan now has a retreat from the forced family happiness and space to discover himself, gain confidence and grow as a character. Owen is perfectly played by Sam Rockwell, friendly but not forceful, confident and comedic, care-free but with an underlying desire to achieve happiness for those around him.
The plot thickens when Duncan witnesses Trent cheating on his mother. It takes a few more days, but his new stronger, more confident self is enraged by the betrayal and his mother’s inaction. Exploding with rage at a garden party, Duncan forces his mother to confront her partner’s infidelity, resulting in them packing up and abandoning their holiday early. Duncan escapes the car and flees to the waterpark with his mother following in confusion close behind. The final scenes draw together Duncan’s two worlds, his escape and those he is escaping from, for final words and final moments.
Combining comedy with realism, the Way Way Back is a worthy watch, with some stellar performances and great scripting.
- Review: The Way Way Back (cineastes.wordpress.com)
- Film Review: The Way, Way Back (peanutsandpopcorn.wordpress.com)
- 1025 Advanced Screening Of “The Way Way Back”! (ksfm.cbslocal.com)