The Way Way Back is now available to rent, buy or stream.
Jim Rash and Nat Faxon’s directorial debut perfectly encapsulates the importance of finding your place, being yourself and being supported by those who love you for being you rather than who you’re not. Here fourteen-year-old Duncan (Liam James) is at the height of that emotional and awkward age where it’s challenging to communicate with yourself, let alone others. But his awkwardness is only made worse by a familial reshuffle that has seen a new man arrive on the scene for his mum, the wealthy Trent, played by Steve Carell. Although The Way Way Back is a modern film, its bouncy ’80s hits and indie rock open an anachronistic rift for you to dive into, one drenched in the hormonal riffs and seductive synths of the 1980s. In many ways, it feels like a valentine to the films of John Hughes whilst standing firmly on its own two feet.
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While it may feel like the kind of film that’s championed as a darling of the indie film scene now, it took years for Nash and Faxon to secure funding for the project. Eventually, Fox Searchlight Pictures agreed to distribute the movie, following the success of Little Miss Sunshine and Juno. Yet, it remains one of the more underrated coming-of-age films of the last decade despite its impressive troupe of players. After all, this is a movie that brings together Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney and Maya Rudolph. Here its deeply impressive cast and cracking screenplay help it hit a sweet spot between relatable teen comedy and impactful adolescent drama without one overpowering the other.
THE WAY WAY BACK ©️FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES
Sometimes films come to you at the exact right time, and for me, The Way Way Back was one of those movies. I fell in love with this film while also having to come to terms with the loss of my grandfather, unintentionally clinging to it as a kind of cinematic safety blanket. I would play the soundtrack on loop, especially its final three tracks, ‘Alone’, ‘Go Where The Love Is’, and ‘The Way Way Back.’ Somehow this trio reflected my emotional journey, encouraging me to feel the painful emotions I tried so hard to wrestle with but could not vocalise.
In more ways than one, The Way Way Back was a true coming-of-age film for me, and its effect on me has solidified perfectly in amber. Listening to even a moment of the soundtrack propels me back to my 14-year-old self, a temporal doorway way, way back. Just like Liam, it felt like I was drowning, unable to find the strength to swim up to the surface. The Way Way Back was like a lifebuoy thrown out to me, and I clutched to it until I eventually remembered how to float.