Fatherhood, Netflix, and Away We Go

When I was younger, my wife (girlfriend at the time) and I would often rent movies from the local Blockbuster.  It was a pretty regular event for us on the weekend to spend at least an hour trying to pick out the perfect movie.  Since then, Netflix has come along and dominated the video rental business to the point that the Blockbuster we used to frequent went out of business and sold everything in stock for well under face value.

Which is when we bought the movie Away We Go.  We had heard that it was supposed to be good and it was priced at a few dollars, so we picked it up, placed it on our shelf, and left it there for several months.  Last weekend we watched it. Here are my thoughts:

I feel like I should throw a warning out there that the opening scene to this movie is insanely awkward.  Other than that the film was fantastic.

It has been a while since I really felt like I have related to a movie.  This is not to say that there have not been great movies made in the past few years, just that I do not think that I have actually been changed by viewing any of The Harry Potter movies to give a example.  With Away We Go I found myself not only laughing, but also thinking about important issues in life.

The main characters, Burt and Verona, are a dating couple expecting their first child.  They are soon shocked to learn that Burt’s parents have decided to move to Europe, leaving Burt and Verona with no support and in a place where they moved mainly to be with Burt’s parents in the first place.  Verona’s parents died when she was in her early twenties and so the couple decides to go on several trips to cities where they may have friends or family members that could help establish them in a new location.  They travel from Phoenix to Madison, from Montreal to Miami.  At every stop they encounter varying family styles and structures, the parents of which all give them advice on how to raise their future daughter.

One of the more poignant moments of the film finds Burt and Verona getting ready for bed in their trailer one night when their electricity goes out.  Freezing cold and huddling on the couch for warmth through the night Verona asks Burt, “are we f**k ups?”   The conversation is both humorous and serious.  I think Burt and Verona, like many of us are reflecting on their lives so far and aren’t sure if they are actually doing anything with the time they have been given.  As a 27 year old watching this scene in the room where I live in my parent’s house, with my pregnant wife, I couldn’t help but ask myself the same question.  We all want to feel like we are contributing to the world in some way or another and I think especially as men we really start to feel emasculated when we cannot provide for our families or be like the rest of society.  Burt seems to believe, and I would agree, that the status of a person as a “f**k up” has nothing to do with material possessions or status, but who they are as a person, especially as throughout the movie Burt and Verona run into many people that are more successful socioeconomically, but who by no means have it all together.

I also rediscovered who I hope to be as a parent.  In the movie Burt has a lot of great quotes about who he wants to be as a dad , and I think that I agree with him on most of them. I want to sing Bob Dylan songs as lullabies for my daughter (Verona sings Mr. Tambourine Man).  Like Burt, I want her (my daughter)  to have a “Huck Finnish” childhood.  I want to take her on trips to Yellowstone and Mammoth Cave, Haiti, and the Smokey Mountains.  I want her to learn to ride a bike and paddle a kayak, read books and climb trees.  I love the following conversation between Burt and Verona because I think it not only displays the great desire we have as men to be something great and to have meaning, but also the desire we should have as men to see our children be happy as well.

Burt: Do you promise to let our daughter be fat or skinny or any weight at all? Because we want her to be happy, no matter what. Being obsessed with weight is just too cliché for our daughter.

Verona: Yes, I do. Do you promise, when she talks, you’ll listen? Like, really listen, especially when she’s scared? And that her fights will be your fights?

Burt: I do. And do you promise that if I die some embarrassing and boring death that you’re gonna tell our daughter that her father was killed by Russian soldiers in this intense hand-to-hand combat in an attempt to save the lives of 850 Chechnyan orphans?

Verona: I do. Chechnyan orphans. I do. I do.

Finally, I saw in the movie that while it is important to learn from others around us, in many situations we just have to learn for ourselves.  It would be easy for my wife and I, or anyone else, to become obsessed with what the books say and what our friends have done when raising their own kids, but when it comes down to it we have to decide, like Verona, that the only thing we can do is raise this one child (or children) that we are given in the best possible way that we can.  Again, this is not to suggest that we should not take advice from other people, just that at some point you have to stop living through the views and opinions of other people and start forming them on your own.

As you may have noticed I have spent a lot of time writing and thinking about being a parent.  I have no idea what kind of parent I will be but I hope that I will be like Burt in Verona in more ways than one.  Like Burt and Verona I have no idea what to expect but I think that all I can hope for, and all any of us can hope for is that we do our best to give our kids every opportunity to be great, in all aspects of the word.

I cannot recommend this movie enough.  I also cannot overstate the awkwardness of the opening scene enough so do not go watch this movie with your parents and be angry at me for recommending the film, it is all on you now.  I wanted to write a lot more for this post but really important things like fishing and fireworks got in my way and for that I apologize.  Go out and rent/buy the movie and have a watch, I think you will enjoy it.  If you have seen it feel free to discuss below in the comment section.

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One Comment on “Fatherhood, Netflix, and Away We Go”

  1. joshacorman
    July 5, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    I love AWAY WE GO. Dave Eggers wrote the script with his wife (Eggers also wrote the script to WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, which I thought was criminally underrated), and he’s also written one of my favorite books of all-time, WHAT IS THE WHAT (included in my “Eleven (Really) Long Novels” post here: http://thethingaboutflying.com/2012/05/18/eleven-really-long-novels-worth-your-while/

    Anyway, I saw the movie with my then 17 year-old brother-in-law which added to the opening scene’s awkwardness (it’s not THAT bad, though), but walked away thoroughly impressed with Krasinski (Jim from The Office, who plays Burt) and Rudolph (from SNL), who play every scene to perfection. It really plays out like a philosophical exploration of how love, in its many incarnations (parental, romantic, marital, friendly) looks.

    Plus the Maggie Gyllenhaal section of the movie is pricelessly strange.

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