The Way Way Back (2013) Film Review

The Way Way Back is a quirky comedy/drama based on a 14 year old boy, Duncan whom is forced to spend summer with his mum; Pam (Tony Collete), her obnoxious boyfriend; Trent (Steve Carell) and his bratty daughter; Steph (Zoe Levin). After misery spending time with this so-called family, Duncan stumbles across Water Wizz water park, where he acquaints with Owen.

Liam James as Duncan definitely creates a memorable character. He dwells into the 14 year old whom is very quiet, shy and always in his own world. We constantly feel sorry for Duncan, where we simply want him to escape and be free. We feel his pain and boredom. However, Duncan releases his mind at the water park where we see him genuinely having a good time and a sense of belonging. Throughout the film we aim to see Duncan smile and simply be a kid which pulls through the surprising reaction in his ‘Pop and Lock’ scene. Though due to Pam’s arrogant boyfriend, Duncan’s anger boils, bringing conflict to the table.

The relationship between Trent and Duncan sure is heated. Steve Carell brilliantly portrays this horrible want-to-be-father. His selfishness and careless attitude towards Duncan and relentless insight in his presence is strongly encountered. The situation becomes slightly tensed when both are confronted, where Pam is always in the middle. We see Trent’s traits and begin to find him quite irritating, where this family seems disjointed and far from becoming one.

Tony Colette as Pam innocently plays Duncan’s mother as well as Trent’s girlfriend. She tries so hard to bring both her loves together, yet the pieces don’t match. As much as Pam tries (whilst we appreciate her effort), we begin to get frustrated due to the fact that she doesn’t seem to confront Trent’s arrogant behavior. There are repetitive shots which focus on Pam when she notices the tensed reef between Trent and Duncan, yet she silently plays lamb throughout. This falls back on her insecure persona of being a divorcee, thus toying with the stereotype of a vulnerable single mother.

Having said that, the drama bubbles when Duncan confronts Trent in a beach party. This anger bottled inside of him finally bursts out, where Trent’s face is unforgettable. The humiliation he feels is built up, where we feel proud of Duncan’s brave move.

The Way Way Back unfolds this simple tale of a great kid. Duncan has this quality in which we all have once endured, he perpetuates the shyness and social awkwardness around people. Likewise, the film denotes an underlying message of how it just takes that one person to believe in you. Indeed, Duncan’s friend Owen (Sam Rockwell) is an absolute delight to watch. His chilled out behavior and laziness bring out the comedic twists, where his dialogue is perfect. Owen genuinely helps bring out the confidence in Duncan, making him feel good about himself. Rockwell’s very last scene, where he confronts Trent, is one of the highlights of the film.

Overall, The Way Way Back directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash is a great film with a simple plot and strong cast. The film has its own slow pacing, yet Duncan manages to hold our attention long enough. There could have been more dramatic scenes and a splash of further comedy. However if I had to sum the film up in one word, I would go with ‘sweet’. Yes, it’s a sweet little film.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Written by: Meera Darji

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