You Shall Know Our Velocity 

click to enlarge awaywego.jpg
Away We Go
Directed by Sam Mendes

After a streak of post-Oscar prestige pictures that didn't pay the expected dividends — that is, movies that sounded like awards-bait but turned out to be too idiosyncratic to push those buttons — Sam Mendes has scaled down with Away We Go, following an expectant couple (John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph) visiting family and friends, looking for someplace to settle down with their impending daughter. At first, it seems a little like an arena band trying their hand at tasteful indie rock — the kind that Alexi Murdoch strums, perhaps too incessantly, on the soundtrack. But Mendes specializes in characters adrift, and the downshift to lower-key ennui fits him. Within his still-precise framing, the central relationship feels loose, lived-in and effortlessly believable.

The literary roots of married screenwriters Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida show as the pit-stops begin to resemble short stories, complete with lit-fiction tropes: miscarriages, fraught marriages and all manner of parental absences. Occasionally, the glimpsed supporting characters take hard, broad turns: Maggie Gyllenhaal doubtless has the condescending new-agey ultra-liberal figured out down to the ground, but her gestures, funny as they are, never gain dimension, as if Eggers and Vida are just working through some residual dinner-party irritation. The cast is packed with wonderful indie-ish actors, but it's Rudolph, best known for wild caricatures and funny voices on Saturday Night Live, who keeps the movie grounded, putting a face of quiet worry on all this earnest searching. Her hesitation is this affecting movie's warm, tentative soul.

Opens June 5

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