The Way Way Back (2013) Directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. With Liam James, Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette, Steve Carell and Allison Janney.
Writer/directing duo Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s debut film, The Way Way Back, is a good hearted comedy/drama about Duncan (Liam James) a young boy on summer vacation with his Mum (Toni Collette) and her high-handed boyfriend (Steve Carell). Essentially, it’s a story about a young boy searching for an example of a father figure.
There’s something distinctly unassuming about the piece. Not only is Liam James a likeable, unshowy young performer, in his central role, he’s also supported by a fine cast giving colourful performances which enrich the story no end. Steve Carell dials back his usual comedy shtick, in a surprising, but refreshingly boo-hissy performance. It’s clever casting to put someone who we’re used to laughing and feeling at ease with, in the role of someone so selfish and mean spirited.
Bringing ying to Carell’s yang, is Sam Rockwell, the laid-back manager of ‘Water Wizz’, a run-down, but lively water park that acts as a haven of escapism and self discovery for a young boy so desperately seeking it. The antithesis of Carell’s bully, Rockwell is a pure joy in his role and offers huge relief, not only for the boy, for us the audience too.
Despite its good intentions and lively performances, it’d be a stretch to get too excited about anything landmark going on here. That said, it’s the sort of US indie film that functions perfectly, within its parameters, and part of its cosy charm is that it’s not vying for award season attention, by snatching out cheaply for our attention. Before the credits roll, The Way Way Back manages to be both touching and reassuring. 3/5