Review: The Way Way Back

A great great film.


I know I went nuts about Pacific Rim a while ago, but it really has to be said: The Way Way Back (TWWB) is one of my favourite films of the year.

It really is that good.

Following the (mis)adventures of a 14yr-old boy, Duncan (played brilliantly by one Liam James), TWWB tells the story of what happens when a geeky kid, who can’t take being around his mum and soon-to-be-stepdad’s jagged relationship much longer, sets off and tries to find his own way. This isn’t fantasy, this isn’t Pan’s Labyrinth levels of youth-based escapism – this is purely about one boy’s attempt to find some respite, and what he discovers along the way.


Cast-wise, I’ve already mentioned Liam James, TWWB also features Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell and Toni Collette. Rockwell, as ever, kills it as the irresponsible water park manager that Duncan befriends; I laughed out loud a lot at his constant one liners (which I don’t doubt were result of much improv).

Toni Collete plays worrisome/stressed/straggled mum really quite well. Not as haunted as 6th Sense, and not as on edge as About A Boy – I’d put her performance somewhere in between with a smattering of broken-heartedness. In this context, it works.

Which brings us to Steve Carell.

Toni Collette, Steve Carell

I don’t know why but, I left the cinema thinking that TWWB could possibly be one of my favourite Steve Carell performances ever. Yeah, I know. Why? Because by the end of the film I ended up hating his character, Trent. Just absolutely despising him. Brilliantly under-played, Steve Carell brings a nuanced distrust to the film that is the cause of much stress and pain for more than just one or two characters. It’s just so darn subtle that you don’t even realise how much he’s effing things up until long after the film. Great work, Steve.

Oh! I nearly forgot Allison Janney! Remember CJ from The West Wing? Yes, her. Janney turns up in, I guess you could call it an extended cameo, and pretty much steals every she appears in. AMAZING.

TWWB reminded me, at times, of The Descendants. But this time, told from the kids’ perspective. It’s a beautiful summer town, there’s major stuff going on in the adults’ lives, but this time ’round we get to see what the young ones get up to, how they react and ultimately, how they grow. God this film is good. It’s an old school coming of age movie, that warms you to your bones.

If your’re missing the sunshine a little bit (and if you can find a cinema that’s still showing it) then go and see The Way Way Back. It’s a good end of summer movie that I thoroughly enjoyed It made me laugh, it made me sad, and it made reaffirmed my faith in the human race.

I think it’s one of those films that will be a little bit of a sleeper hit. It’ll do okay at the cinema but will eventually be amazing on home release and people talk about it and recommend it at parties – ‘Oh, did you see The Way Way Back? You have  to see this film’ – then everyone will see it and then everyone will realise that it’s full of the best of everything.

Go see it.

PS. Big love and thanks to Luc Pestille: without his recommendation, I doubt I would’ve gone to see this. Thanks bud.


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