Film Review: The Way Way Back


Comedy drama The Way Way Back is entertaining and occasionally touching. Viewers are unlikely to feel short changed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s film.

14-year-old Duncan goes on a summer holiday with his mum, her boyfriend Trent, and Trent’s daughter. Duncan is painfully shy, and an easy target for the overbearing Trent. Finding it difficult to fit in, Duncan finds solace at the local water park…

The Way Way Back is a coming of age story which gradually endears itself to viewers. The film is not astoundingly inventive, but the characters and narrative is well crafted enough to keep the audience watching.

The central character Duncan is an underdog. It is easy for viewers to sympathise with the shy and awkward protagonist. Duncan is at times cringe-inducing in his awkwardness, but this makes him more likeable as an underdog. He is a well-written protagonist; it is this which makes viewers root for him.

Other characters in The Way Way Back are given enough flesh for the audience to buy into them. Pam is elicits both frustration and sympathy, while Owen is loveable. The secondary narrative strands have been given enough thought as to appear authentic complements to the main story.

The tone of The Way Way Back easily switches from humorous situations to moments that are sad or genuinely touching. The skill of Faxon and Rash’s writing and directing is that they keep the focus on the characters.

Toni Collette is believable as Pam, while Liam James is fantastically cast as Duncan. It is refreshing to see Steve Carell in a more nefarious role, and Allison Janney is superb. Sam Rockwell is incredibly charismatic as Owen.

The Way Way Back is a story of identity and confidence. The beauty of the film is that it makes it impossible not to smile.