Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Are We Fuck-Ups?" - Reflection on "Away We Go"

"Are we fuck-ups?"

This was the question my ex-wife and I asked ourselves a lot during the months before Matthew was born. I was 20 at the time, without a job, going to college to become the "Great American Novelist." She was a college student, too, with no job. We lived in the dorms, without a car, slaves to our parents on the weekends. Life was a dead-end. The questions and doubts were endless: what kind of a world were we going to raise our child in? How much protection would he (or she, cause we didn't know) need? Where would we raise him/her? Would we (could we) always be there for him/her? Would we (could we) always be there for each other.

Away We Go is an amazing little movie. I say little because it does not play like a box-office smash hit. It doesn't go out of its way to "wow" us with slapstick humor, trite one-liners, and sexy stars. It's subtle. It's sweet. It's little.

Yet, it asks BIG questions.

Burt and Verona are 30-somethings who discover she's going to have a baby. After learning that Burt's parents are going to be leaving the country, Burt and Verona decide that they have the freedom to decide where they want to raise their unborn child. So, together, they go on a journey that takes them from Phoenix to Wisconsin to Montreal. Along the way they make some remarkable discoveries about parenthood, relationships, and each other.

All I could think about as I watched this movie was sitting in bed with my ex, talking about Matt's future; talking about ours. We couldn't foresee divorce, or how it would impact him (and his then unconceived brother and sister). Our conversations ranged from the deeply serious, tear-stained variety to the whimsical to the downright outrageous (we should name him "Jabez"). It was a time of discovery, not just of each other, not just of life, but of ourselves. What kind of parents would we be? Would we relive the sins of ours? How would we fuck-up our child's life?

And would he see that we were fuck-ups?

I really loved this movie. It brought back tons of memories, both scary and good. I loved Burt and Verona, felt like I knew them. I loved how Burt would intentionally scare her or start a fake fight with her ("cuntsucker!") just to make sure the baby's heart rate stayed at a healthy rate. I loved how Verona continued to refuse Burt's marriage proposals, all the while loving him as a wife would. And I loved how the movie didn't resort to a string of meaningless arguments and manufactured misunderstandings to create unecessary conflict. Burt and Verona are real, they love each other with passion and maturity, and they don't want to fight; they share the same goals, the same values, the same dreams. Yet, their story is not boring. It's revelatory.

I highly recommend this little movie, directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road), and starring Jonathan Krazinski (The Office) and Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live). If you're married and have children, it will conjure up the most interesting of memories. If you don't have'll give you a lot to think about.

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