Question: If the foundations are destroyed, a.k.a. grandpa and grandma are moving out of the country for two years just three months shy of the birth of your firstborn, what can the righteous -Verona (Maya Rudolph) and Burt (John Krasinski) - do?
Answer: Embark on a grailish quest touching the lives of relatives and friends in places like Phoenix, Montreal, and Miami, to find the perfect family role model and place to raise their child.
“For as long as our records go back, we have held these two things dear, landscape and memory…The one feeds us, figuratively and literally. The other protects us from lies and tyranny.”
As the film begins, Burt and Verona know quite a few things: how to trade futures, draw surgical illustrations, and make a baby top the list. They’re young, still evolving, but they do feel things deeply. Burt desires to be the kind of father who makes things out of wood. Quaint, but fair. What they don’t know, however, is where they’re from.
“It is the chilling nature of modern society to find an ignorance of geography, local or national, as excusable as an ignorance of hand tools;and to find the commitment of people to their home place only momentarily entertaining. And finally naïve.”
Some reviewers have criticized Burt and Verona for showing contempt for their family and friends along the way. For example, A.O. Scott of the NYTimes refers to the “smug self-regard” of the characters. Anyone else besides me ever shown contempt for family and friends and engaged in a little smug self-regard in your thirties? C’mon, A.O.
Mythic time culminates atop a trampoline at Burt’s brother’s house. Unmarried Burt and Verona give voice to vows that made this old pastor proud. Burt wakes to find Verona holding two things dear, landscape and memory. True hope for those yet to be born must hold hands with those long dead. Verona tells a story of her parents; they died while she was in college. The tale is one of love and longing. And place.
The next thing we see is their old blue Volvo approaching the landscape of Verona’s childhood: a tree strung with plastic fruit, an old house in need of repair, and a river or lake or shoreline or something running through it.
“Geography, the formal way in which we grapple with this areal mystery, is finally knowledge that calls up something in the land we recognize and respond to. It gives us a sense of place and a sense of community. Both are indispensable to a state of well-being, an individual’s and a country’s.”
I don’t know everything this film was about. I’m not a prophet, nor the son of one. But I do know that desire was stirred in me as I sat quiet in the theater. Desire not for false or imposed geographies, but a longing to be able to voice the original working, and better I believe, title for the film – “This must be the place.”
*Quoted material taken from “The American Geographies” by Barry Lopez.
Away We Go is rated R for language and sexual content.