Thursday, July 16, 2009

Away We Go: When You Run Towards Something to Find Yourself

We Are All Looking for "Home"

I had to get away from all computers for a few hours yesterday. So I went for a walk and on a whim decided to see the movie Away We Go. Directed by Sam Mendes it stars Maya Rudolph and John Kransinksi. I admit I was curious to see Maya act in a film and do something apart from her SNL sketches.  It was written by a real-life couple Vendela Vida and Dave Eggers hence a lot of detailed couple quirkiness that I found engaging to watch on screen.
Verona and Burt are an unmarried couple in their thirties, who are expecting their first child. They live in Denver close to Burt's parents, since Verona's parents had passed away. They thought their life was going great until they found out that Burt's parents were leaving the country for two years and would not be there for the birth of their grandchild. Verona and Burt decide to go on a road trip and travel around the U.S. and Canada to find the perfect place to live to call home and bring up their child. They travel to Phoenix, Tucson, Madison, Montreal, and Miami where they either have relatives or friends living. Along the way, they are also looking for the perfect family as a role model for them to follow in raising their daughter. As with all new families, they discover their own way.  via

So why am I talking about this film? I think for many of us who grew up listening to Minnie Riperton are always going to be curious about her daughter who inherited her mom's good looks. Part of the plot of her character surviving the death of a parent must have resonated with the actress on a personal level. At least it did with me because I was wondering if she'd used some of that to breathe life into her character. Note: I have to give some of the plot away in order to get into this but it won't be so much that you still won't be able to enjoy the film.

Verona starts off a bit detached whereas Burt is always open to her emotionally. Since I've been writing so much about black women and girls breaking free of invalid emotional contracts within the "black community" construct and seeking out potential mates of high caliber I looked at her relationship with scrutiny. I was trying to evaluate whether they were really compatible and what message was being sent.  Her character is black (they don't specifically indicate she's bi-racial) in an inter-racial relationship and she isn't married. I thought the timing was interesting given the conversations here the past week.

In the film Burt has in fact asked Verona to marry him but she refuses in part due to the death of her parents. I wonder how we allow traumas to color our perspective and how much they change us and how we relate to others. They had discussed sharing a life together and eventually having children but as is the case with many of us kids, sometimes we decide our time to join the world may be ahead of the schedule of our creators. 

The relationship isn't glamorized as they share a moment where they ask each other if they've messed up their lives by making poor choices. They're not wealthy but they're not exactly poor either. Due to a move to Belgium Burt's parents won't be around and they don't want to have to care for their child without other family or friends nearby so they visit those closest to them to see where they might fit best. I liked the fact that they knew they shouldn't even attempt to be an island unto themselves. I also think it was probably better the future grandparents did leave. They needed to have their own separate life.

They go visit Verona's former boss who is crazy. I'll let you see why when you see the film. She's funny...but um no I would not want this woman anywhere my kid. Then they go visit Verona's sister. We finally get to see some of her inner workings. You know you're watching a movie that's been well put-together when you notice little details, like how they tried to match similar textures and hair colors between the on-screen sisters. I really liked the chemistry between Maya and Carmen Ejogo who plays her younger sibling. You also start to see why she and Burt work well together.

He's very easy-going and always emotionally available to her. He does want to provide and protect her. There's an ongoing joke about things he does to get her heart rate elevated because they don't argue with each other. He's very mild-mannered so to see him try to act against type is funny to watch. It also shows how willing he is to give her everything she needs. If I was evaluating Burt as a potential mate he'd definitely pass.

Then they go visit a long-time family friend of Burt's. Let's just say the woman lives an alternative lifestyle but the payoff was the fact it was acknowledged in the film with a confrontation scene.  They figure out quickly there are some things they are not willing to do with their children. It was hilarious but true. You can be too rigid or too free.

They proceed to visit some friends from college who are married and have several adopted children. Burt and Verona exclaim they want a family just like their friends. The couple does work well together and the kids are adorable....except things are more complicated than what they seem. It just goes to show that we all have problems but we have to make the most with what we have. Life isn't perfect. 

Burt's brother calls and beckons them to Miami where he's dealing with the loss of his wife. She left the marriage and he's beside himself worrying about what it will do to his daughter and her self-esteem to be missing a mother at this stage in her development. I really liked the way this dad's sole concern was the well-being of his child and how he recognized that she needed both parents and there was no adequate substitute for that. He mentioned that he didn't want her walking around with unkempt hair and the wrong backpack or shoes and be socially ostracized. 

Burt is then concerned about the future of his relationship with Verona. He doesn't want her leaving him or abandoning their child, especially considering she'd refused to marry him. Finally Verona opens her heart and they share their own personal vows with each other. She assures Burt that she'll never leave him. 

So the emotional payoff comes at the end of the movie. Verona's family home is in Florida and neither she nor her sister had been there since their parents died. She tells Burt a story about her parents which is her way of finally letting go. All of her travels and searching has led her back home. They're shown driving up to a beautiful old house by the water. I admit I got as teary eyed as her character did because I felt it was a completion of one part of a very important journey to rediscovering who she was.

Their future hadn't yet been written but it would be together. So that's why I had to write this review and see the movie as one that's very encouraging for all women, but it was especially nice to see it told with a woman of color for a change.

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I hope to see this movie. "Home" is the missing element in most households. We are longing for home sweet, safe home.

Keep striving, Faith.

Felicia said...

Wonderful review Faith.

I'm looking forward to seeing this with my hubby when it comes out on DVD.

I love seeing couples in film that I can relate to as an interracially married woman of color.

Anonymous said...


THANK YOU for the reference to the Blue Butter fly essay/log.

You all, are on FIYAH!



Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Bluebutterfly: Yup we all want home, a place we are comfy with.

Felicia: It was released a month ago and I do hope it has a nice box office run.

Miriam: No problem

Welcome said...

I mos def want to see this film. This is on my list well and Star Hey I love scifi