Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The Way, Way Back tells the coming-of-age story of 14-year-old Duncan’s (Liam James) summer vacation with his mother, Pam (Toni Collette), her overbearing boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell), and his daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin). Having a rough time fitting in, the introverted Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen (Sam Rockwell), the manager of the Water Wizz water park.
The Way, Way Back may be about a divorced family, finding yourself, and meeting the girl of your dreams, but none of it feels predictable or as if we have seen it all before. Instead, it is a fresh focus on over-used themes, natural in its developments, and probably the sweetest film I have seen this year.
Most of all, every one of the characters is brilliantly written. What I like about The US Office is that you can both love and hate Steve Carell in a single episode. This is what I enjoy most about his acting. In The Way, Way Back, Carell plays a very unlikable character, but you still have that bit of hope inside of you that he may change by the end of it. Whether he does or not, this only betters Toni Collette‘s wonderful performance as his partner. She plays the mother role excellently and her chemistry with her on-screen son, played by Liam James, works really well. Whilst at first James’ performance is a little irritating, he really starts to impress as his character comes out of his shell more, making the character development and coming-of-age story, as a whole, even more believable and engaging.
It’s Sam Rockwell who steals the show, however, making you laugh every time he appears on-screen. Scenes without him are often slow as you often find yourself waiting for Duncan to go back to the water park so we can be made to laugh after another one of his down-beaten days. It is, therefore, Rockwell’s character who keeps you so invested, and it is his progressing relationship with Duncan that both the characters in the film and the audience all need to happen. As you can tell, it’s easy to find yourself engaged with the story because of how natural it all feels.