Every now and then, a little movie comes along that is both adorable and eloquent: a simple story that still lingers in viewers’ hearts and minds long after the credits roll. 2009’s Away We Go is that kind of film, touching on moments of genuine warmth that other smug indies fail to achieve. A poignant and engaging soundtrack from Scottish singer/songwriter Alexi Murdoch positively brims with sincerity for the two main characters, while also establishing a calm emotional center for the wandering couple to call home.
Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) don’t have their lives figured out yet. Happily unmarried but facing a mid-thirties crisis, they learn that they are expecting a baby around the same time that Burt’s parents decide to move overseas. With no family ties in their current state of Colorado, Burt and Verona set off to find a new home for their unborn child: a place where they can start over and create a family of their own. Various hosts along their journey include Verona’s former boss (Allison Janney) in Phoenix, Burt’s New Age hippie cousin (Maggie Gyllenhaal) in Madison, Burt and Verona’s old college friends (Chris Messina and Melanie Lynskey) in Montreal, and Burt’s recently divorced brother (Paul Schneider) in Miami.
While all of the performances are terrific, the refreshingly believable chemistry between Krasinski and Rudolph is Away We Go‘s brightest asset. Krasinski plays the bearded Burt as slightly morose, but his dependable puppy-dog charm (made famous by his character Jim on “The Office”) shines through. Rudolph, known for a more campy brand of humor on “Saturday Night Live,” brings an understated wit and maternal sweetness to Verona that thankfully avoids manic-pixie territory.
And in terms of the film’s soundtrack, the compositions of dreamy folk musician Murdoch are a perfect fit. His voice has the same velvety timbre as Nick Drake’s, and his music often evokes the pastoral simplicity of Drake’s “Pink Moon.” However, despite his fondness for mellow vocals and rustic guitar, Murdoch relies on mostly modern technology to record his nine original tracks. The songs are so smooth and polished, in fact, that each piece of studio-enhanced instrumentation flows together as a seemingly organic and uncomplicated whole.
“All of My Days” is a gorgeous, rolling ode that follows Burt and Verona along every step of their travels, and works well as a consistent lyrical theme. Some of the songs not written by Murdoch (such as Bob Dylan’s “Meet Me in the Morning” and George Harrison’s “What Is Life”) sparkle with an energy and attitude that his original works often lack. Other selections, like The Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin” and Murdoch’s own “Wait,” add layers of quiet depth that are just as important to the film’s structure as the livelier tracks.
Still, the most effective song in Away We Go does not appear on the official soundtrack. While Burt sits in the kitchen with his brother Court, discussing the joys and fears of fatherhood, Bob Dylan’s “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man” can be heard in soft, lilting strains from the next room. Verona is singing a lullaby to Court’s five-year-old daughter, whose mother abandoned her and no longer sings her to sleep. Suddenly, Burt’s eyes well up with tears, as he realizes for perhaps the first time how deeply his own daughter will be loved.
In the following scene, Burt and Verona lie on a trampoline in the backyard and talk about their future as a family:
“Do you promise that if I die some boring death, you’ll 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?” asks Burt.
“Chechnyan orphans,” Verona responds with a smile. “I do, I do.”
Thanks to a top-notch cast, a clever script, and an appealing soundtrack that fills every frame with truth and tenderness, Away We Go is definitely worth the trip.
Away We Go Soundtrack tracklist (all songs by Alexi Murdoch unless otherwise noted):
- “All My Days”
- “Orange Sky”
- “Blue Mind”
- “Song for You”
- “Towards the Sun”
- “Meet Me in the Morning” (Bob Dylan)
- “What Is Life” (George Harrison)
- “Golden Brown” (The Stranglers)
- “Oh! Sweet Nuthin” (The Velvet Underground)
- “The Ragged Sea”
- “Crinan Wood”