The Way Way Back
The Way Way Back, 2013, USA
Duncan (Liam James) is spending the summer at his mother’s (Toni Collette) boyfriend’s (Steve Carell) beach house. Trent is belittling and emotionally abusive towards Trent, and to a lesser extent, towards his mother, but she’s oblivious to his behavior. Duncan is shy, socially awkward, and attracted to Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb), the older girl next door. In an effort to escape his mother’s boyfriend and the rest of his family, Duncan starts spending time at Water Wizz, which is managed by Owen (Sam Rockwell), an easy going, fun loving and immature man. Owen offers Duncan a summer job, and he finds himself opening up after meeting a group of people who like him for who he is.
The film was a lovely coming of age story. Duncan is so easy to relate to – I’m sure many adults felt they didn’t fit in or were forced to spend a summer where they didn’t want to be. But Duncan’s story of “making the best of it” and finding a group of people he can relate to was both touching and inspiring. James did a very good job as Duncan.
The genuine highlight of the film was Rockwell. While watching, I felt as if every line he gave was one that he improvised himself. He’s a comedic genius, and he manages to make the irresponsible and potentially annoying Owen into a true hero. He danced the line of obnoxious and charming in the most perfect manner. Is Owen a role model? Nope, but Duncan didn’t need a role model: he needed someone to believe in him and that is precisely what Owen was. Their friendship was so beautiful.
Carell plays against type in this film by playing the cruel, passive aggressive and emotionally abusive Trent. He owned the role, and made me ache for poor Duncan, and wish that his mother had some backbone to stand up for her son.
The Way Way Back is told from the perspective of Duncan, which I appreciated. There’s no “after the fact” narration – just the story of a teenage boy opening up and learning his value to the world. It’s a wonderful film and I wish it found a bigger audience than it did.