Away We Go

As we have learned from the movies, road films are about journeys other than the ones depicted on screen. The persons and obstacles met along the way serve to challenge – and measure – the emotional growth of the protagonists, including their ability to overcome their fears about themselves and the world they inhabit. In this sense, Away We Go is no different.

However, the film also provides us with what can only be described as the couple’s archetypal journey which, in this case, is ultimately about the trip from his parents to the home of the dead that is hers. The stops along the way are almost incidental to this other journey but, in the end, are necessary steps along the way that make it possible.

Some reviewers have described the central couple of this film as overly idealized, even smug, but this overlooks the obvious problems that threaten to corrode their relationship. She refuses to marry him, despite being six months pregnant and despite his repeated requests that she reconsider. Of course, this apparent deadlock is but a symptom of other, deeper, issues that define their very being, together and apart: the idiosyncrasies he has clearly inherited from his father and, when speaking with certain others, his inability to use his own voice, recycling the artificial – and worn – language of others; for her, the nagging dissatisfaction that haunts her, manifest in her inability to actually speak about the deaths that define her past and what, as a consequence, has been lost to her.

Given this emotional terrain, her refusal to accept his marriage proposals signals her inability to bury that which haunts her, and her unwillingness to provide him the emotional security he yearns for. It is precisely these twin “neuroses” – evident in his solicitousness and in her moodiness – that impel their trek across the continent in search of a home for their unborn child.

The friends and family they meet along the way are part of this “shopping” experience, seeking people like themselves – or, more precisely, the kind of people they would like to be. What they find, instead, is the realization that their ideal will not be met and, furthermore, the recognition that the half-submerged turmoil that defines their own relationship is found “out there,” as well. In the hilarious – and obnoxious – behavior that veils a marriage long gone dry. The “lifestyle” designed to escape intolerable anger and pain. The thin veneer of the “perfect family” under which looms a deep and unremitting despair.

In the midst of such encounters, the requirement of personal transformation – a staple of the road movie – slowly creeps up on the pair. For each, the “adventure” becomes one of turning inward to examining one’s emotional constitution and figuring out how it can intertwine with that of another, absent the impositions or evasions that define far too many relationships. For him, this means relinquishing the fantasized security of the “perfect” life – and wife – and leaving his family behind. For her, it involves learning how to confront precisely what she has been trying to escape, that which has never seen the light of day and has never been permitted to grace her lips.

In the words of the well-known song, “Nice work, if you can get it.” And should that work succeed: the achievement of a lifetime.

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~ by mistified on September 19, 2009.

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