The Way Way Back Review

Reviews Films


The Way, Way Back is the coming-of-age story of 14-year-old Duncan’s summer vacation with his mother, Pam, her overbearing boyfriend, Trent, and Trent’s daughter Steph. Having a rough time fitting in, the introverted Duncan finds an unexpected friend in gregarious Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park all making for a summer he will never forget.

‘The Way, Way Back’ comes from writer/director team up Nat Faxon and Jim Rash whose previous collaborative work includes 2011’s ‘The Descendants’. ‘The Way, Way Back’ marks the directorial debut for the pair in what turns out to be a familiar but adorable and quirky, character driven coming of age story.

Set during the holiday summer period, the film centres on the young introverted boy Duncan as he is unwillingly taken away to a coastal town and forced to spend quality time with his mother and the rest of his now seemingly adopted family.

Faxon and Rash developed an excellent script for the film, overall they’ve delivered a bittersweet and moving story packed full of nostalgia, while maintaining the perfect blend of comedy and heart for a film such as this. The dialogue is funny, dramatic, and quirky at all the right moments and the material effectively drifts tonally between its darker underlying elements and it’s more uplifting and heart-warming scenes.

The central character ‘Duncan’ takes the audience on his personal journey through the film which articulates his growth in both a fun, interesting and delightful fashion as his transformation takes place. He’s surrounded by a variety of characters all influential in some way as his experiences shape his growth as a person.

Here we get to see a wonderfully gifted cast, Sam Rockwell threatens to steal every scene he’s in delivering the best dialogue of the film while oozing on screen charisma. Steve Carell and Toni Collette are a strong foundation for Liam James to play off while he does an excellent job of portraying his character’s mixed emotions and personal growth throughout all of his scenes.

Allison Janney also grabs the spotlight in her scenes with a very funny performance that will likely strike a chord with audiences. The relationship that is the true foundation of the film however is that between Sam Rockwell and Liam James, and the pair work very well together, appearing natural and at ease on screen.

‘The Way, Way Back’ wraps up drama, humour, and nostalgia into a character study that is a pleasure to watch, I’m giving it eight out of ten stars, and it’s in cinemas from 1st August 2013.

Leith spent most of his formative years growing up on the coastal fringes of Western Australia without a cinema in sight. There he grew up on the wonders of home rentals before relocating to Perth and gaining access to a proper cinematic experience just in time for the Star Wars Special Edition re-releases. From there Leith's love of movies expanded to volunteering on a Star Wars fan film, reviewing films, writing about film news, and attending film and pop-culture related conventions on the other side of the world. Leith's favourite films are too many to mention but all start with the Star Wars saga, Back to the Future, the Dark Knight trilogy, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings and all things Kevin Smith. With an insatiable appetite for all things pop-culture related Leith also has an unhealthy addiction to the world of comics and can often be found buried under a pile of unread back issues madly trying to catch up on a number of titles coming out from mostly DC and Darkhorse.