The Way Way Back Film Review

From the writers that brought us The Descendants, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, comes a charming coming-of-age tale full of family dysfunction.

Like The Descendants, The Way Way Back shows strained relations in an apparently happy setting.  Duncan (Liam James) a 14 year old boy is dragged on holiday with his mum Pam (Toni Collette), her overbearing boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) and his daughter Steph (Zoe Levin). Struggling to fit in to this new family, Duncan escapes from the day to day strains at the beach house and stumbles across Water Wizz, a water park where he finds a friend in wisecracking manager Owen (Sam Rockwell), and is given a secret job for the summer.

Life for Duncan is tough, with a mother that neglects him for her new boyfriend as she is under the impression that the best thing for Duncan is to have a father, yet Trent is the type of father that rates him as a three out of ten and tells Duncan to buck up his ideas. Instead, the Water Park becomes a place of solace for Duncan, offering him the support and stability that his dysfunctional family is unable to offer. Owen gives Duncan the fatherly support he requires and nurtures his development in this encouraging environment. The final scene illustrates Duncan’s passage into adulthood as he slides through a water slide tunnel which marks his ‘rebirth’, his moment of realisation.

The Way Way Back, although it is a coming-of-age story it focuses more on the trials and tribulations that teenagers face within the family setting and how they deal with relationships. The ending of the film is left open, but ends on a hopeful note. The humour throughout provides a release from the serious tension that builds in the family home and as expected the humour is found at the Water Park, the place of escape and solace for both the viewer and Duncan.

With fantastic performances by Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette and Liam James this witty coming-of-age comedy may look nostalgic but feels real and uplifting with its finely tuned script. The film excels in both comedy and drama and the poignant performances by Carell and Collette gives the film authenticity. The Way Way Back has the right amount humour and charm to sustain the audience’s attention and entertain them throughout.

Written by Shirley Welton

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