The film revolves around the shy 14-year-old Duncan who goes on a summer vacation with his mother who are accompanied by her manipulative overbearing boyfriend and his daughter.
Coming of age films are released frequently these days because of the adolescent market who watch them on a journey for answers. This film is more than that, this is a film as Empire puts it, ‘reaffirms our faith in humanity’. This is a film for all markets. This is a film about a path that all teenagers have to take one way or another.
As a child who witnessed my own single parent partake in a ridiculous ongoing relationship against my advice (I was 12 but knew best) I could engage more than possibly most. For one reason or another, Duncan is a very shy young man who’s strong suits are most definitely not social skills. We guess it’s because he doesn’t have a father figure in his life who hasn’t helped guide him. This is where the boyfriend, Trent (Carrel) comes in who plays a magnificent part in trying to teach him what he thinks are fatherlike in a demeaning and manipulative way, giving Duncan a 3/10 in the first scene.
In Duncan’s path of avoidance of the beach house, he finds Owen, the manager of the local Water Wizz water park who fits the role of ‘the donor’ in Propp’s character theory. He gives Duncan a summer job at the park and pushes him to open his wings and explore. He once says to him when Duncan states that he never wants to leave that he shouldn’t settle for this, that there’s a whole world out there to explore. He is the father figure that he has needed so desperately.
Alongside all coming of age films there is always a ‘princess’ (sorry I’m referencing Propp’s theory a lot here). This film is no different, introduce the beautiful Susanna (Anna Sophia Robb) who is different from the rest of the girls who are as shallow as a paddling pool. She is a girl who is in the same boat as Duncan fighting family feuds. Because of their intense boredom they slowly talk more and more until they become well aquatinted (note the montage water park scene).
The Way Way Back is directed and written by fellow actors in the film, Nat Foxon and Jim Rash. What they have written is a dark and colourful story that takes us from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other, accompanying a transformation of Duncan from a shy passive 14-year-old to an embracing young man who people love.
The Way Way Back - 7/10