EVENT REVIEW: 826LA/FOCUS FEATURES PRESENT “AWAY WE GO”

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pair of tickets to 826LA’s screening of “Away We Go” last night before the event sold out.  Paid for in full by Focus Features, the event was composed of several elements, including a screening of the film as well as a Q & A panel afterward with writers Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, stars John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph and Catherine O’Hara, and director Sam Mendes.

The event started once the crowd, which wrapped its way around Sunset, finished filing in at about 8 o’clock.  Joel Arquillos, executive director of 826LA, opened the evening with a warm welcome and introduction to 826LA’s hard-working staff.  He also announced that the event raised an astounding $22,000 for 826LA.  Times are difficult for non-profits, and a lot of them are running on a day-to-day basis, so it’s inspiring to see that people are still willing to put some money and effort toward those helping others and to know that 826LA will be able to keep its doors open for the coming summer months.

The screening of the film was emotionally transcending.  It’s a beautiful, inspiring piece of art that follows a couple that traveling around the country in search of the perfect home for their unborn child.  The film takes you to a variety of different places – emotionally as well as geographically – but always makes you comfortable when you get there.  It’s hard to believe this is Eggers’ first original script translated onto film (aside from his adaption of “Where the Wild Things Are”); the dialogue is poignant and effortless, occasionally going off on tangents not unlike his unique and acclaimed writing style.  Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the film is its ability to be simultaneously laugh-out-loud funny and emotionally riveting without going over the top.  While the some of the supporting characters at first appear a bit outlandish and comical, there’s an unspoken sincerity that grounds them back to reality, reminding the viewer of someone they might know, rendering the characters and situations that might otherwise seem outlandish a bit more believable.  The cinematography is soft and beautiful, capturing various landscapes with a lo-fi, grainy perspective that again gives the film and audience a sense of comfort.

The far-reaching landscapes and intimate relationships within the film are accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack composed of songs from Alexi Murdoch’s “Time Without Consequence” (Murdoch has had films featured in various television shows and films, including “The O.C.” and “Garden State”).  Murdoch’s lullaby voice and graceful guitar picking adds to the films overall theme and feel – a romance full of nuances and secret languages as opposed to fireworks and airport runways.

The crowd’s reaction to the film only added to the experience.  It was clear from the opening titles that everyone was emotionally invested in the film and its characters, with the crowd constantly applauding and laughing uproariously.

After the film, various cast and crew took the stage for the Q & A panel.  The laid back session touched upon various aspects of the film, from choosing the music, to the lighting, to inspiration, to what drew the actors to the script.  Short but informative, it was easy to tell that it was an enjoyable and inspiring film to be a part of.

A great event for a great cause.  One quote from the film really sticks out in my mind and embodies what the film meant to me.  When discussing the pregnancy and what the couple’s next step would be, Rudolph’s character turns to her boyfriend, Kraisnski, and says “No one is in love like us.  What are we going to do?”  The film is not about “will they or won’t they” or the trials and tribulations of breaking up and getting together and the problems that persist – it is about a couple that is past the stage of breaking up and arguing about the little things that don’t matter.  Comfortable in their relationship, they have acknowledge the efforts and selflessness that goes into making a relationship work, and have set their sights on the only thing that matters to them – finding the best place to raise their unborn child, giving their child the perfect life, the only thing that they can control.  And, in the end, they do what is ultimately best for their family.

The film also deals a lot with the two main characters coming to terms with their stagnant lives.  Rudolph’s character repeatedly proposes that the two are “f***-ups,” which lead me to reflect on my life and what I had done.  What constitutes success?  How do you measure the worth and value of your own life?  It’s all very subjective, but in this specific circumstance Rudolph attributed a cardboard window and lack of education to the couple being inadequate. The couple was a bit lost but, if anything, they were lost together.  And they not lost in the sense that they needed to be found, but lost in a way that gives you purpose, gives you meaning.  They were both happy, both looking forward to a life full of cobbling and canoeing with their child(ren); a life lived and lead in the direction they choose, free to possibility and promise.  They were free to live by their own means.  And most importantly, they had love and were successful in their relationship, which was flourishing and evolving through Rudolph’s character’s pregnancy.  To constitute the two as “f***-ups” is certainly something the audience could relate to and, again, pull into question ones’ standards of personal achievement.  What it boils down to is happiness.  Were the two main characters happy?  I believe they were.  They made each other smile, made each other laugh, and were selfless in their efforts to comfort one another.  Even if good intentions may have been misguided or misinterpreted, they were still good intentions.  By the conclusion of the film, I think their happiness was realized.  And, in the end, I think the hardest and most important part of finding happiness is acknowledging what happiness means to you, personally, and doing everything your power to make that visualize that idea and make it a reality.  One can be truly happy only when they have actualized the source of said happiness and made strives and effort to seek its full potential.  We find what makes us happy and away we go.

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