The Way, Way Back


Have you ever been in a relationship in which the other person didn’t realize how important something or someone was to you? The relationship probably didn’t last long….

Last night I wasn’t ready to go to bed so I watched the movie “The Way, Way Back.” It’s really good. It’s about a very shy, unhappy teenager (Duncan) whose mother Pam (Toni Collette) is enamored with a jerk named Trent (Steve Carrell). Pam makes Duncan come with her and Trent’s daughter to Trent’s beach house. Neither Trent nor his daughter are very kind to Duncan but Pam doesn’t seem to notice.

Feeling left out most of the time, Duncan wanders off to the local water park where he befriends one of the employees, Owen (played by Sam Rockwell). Owen tricks him into interacting with a group of local kids that are doing something that looks like break dancing on the property. Duncan is supposed to take away the cardboard they are dancing on but they insist he shows them some moves first. This is where Duncan starts coming out of his shell, he’s even given a nickname for his dance moves. Since Duncan is an employee he mainly stays with Owen but he does be friend the rest of the employees and some of the neighbor kids. Duncan, as well as Pam, realizes that Trent in cheating on her. Even though Trent claims he won’t do it again, Pam doesn’t seem to believe him thus the sudden departure of Trent, his daughter, Duncan and Pam. By now, Duncan does not want to leave and runs off to say good bye to his friends at the water park. The title of the movie is very strange but it’s meaning is apparent by the end when Pam decides to climb over two seat to the way, way back of Trent’s station wagon, to be with Duncan.

Common themes of this film are parenting, divorce and friendship, which are interrelated. All the younger characters in the film are affected by divorce. The children long to be with their other parent, the father, instead of being with their mother. Duncan, in particular, doesn’t mind his mother so much as he doesn’t like Trent. He doesn’t understand why his mother wants to be with him because Trent is a jerk. At the end it’s apparent that Pam has come to that conclusion to and even though Trent would want to stay together, Pam is unlikely to want the same. Parenting is also very important because the skills of the parents are called into question, especially by the kids. Decisions, or the lack thereof, are scrutinized. Pam is concerned for Duncan but not enough to change her behavior immediately.

Friendship is the most important theme. The friendship that develops between Owen and Duncan is very natural and transformative. Owen, though an adult, is not like the others. He is really a big kid. However, it takes someone from his age group to understand his humor. He literally uses the words to an old song as  a speech to some kids at the water park. I’m quite sure I have seen Sam Rockwell in a movie before but he was most memorable as Owen. Duncan’s transformation was mainly because of his friendship with Owen.

What happens after they return home is left unknown even though it is unlikely that Pam will reconcile with Trent. However, if Trent really wanted Pam’s heart, he should have treated Duncan much better.