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Jun 25, 2009

Fletch's Film Review: Away We Go and Sin Nombre

Seeing Away We Go, the romantic comedy/road trip film co-written by humorist Dave Eggers and wife Vendela Vida, a week or two after seeing Sin Nombre, an immigration and gangland drama from director Cary Joji Fukunaga, it's practically the eighth wonder of the world that I didn't hate Away. I certainly couldn't blame others for feeling that way.

Sin Nombre tells the converging stories of Sayra and Willy. Sayra is attempting to emigrate from her native Honduras to America. She does this via a dangerous and lengthy top-of-a-train ride throughout Mexico, along with her uncle and previously estranged father. They cross paths with Willy aka El Casper, a conflicted gang member in southern Mexico. El Casper has just taken on a new young protege, El Smiley, a situation which allows the audience a glimpse into just how brutal (and yet appealing to young boys) gang life can be. Due to circumstances larger than themselves, Willy and Sayra meet, bond, and end up on the run for America - one fighting to live another day, the other looking for something worth living for.

I don't know if it's white guilt or general American guilt or what, but I had a hard enough time not feeling like an asshole just watching Sin Nombre. Sayra, Willy and their families (blood or gang) are killing themselves just to get into the United States, just to get themselves menial labor jobs, just to be thousands of miles from their families and home countries. How much luck, or lack thereof, is granted merely by birthright? Regardless of where one might stand on the immigration debate, it's hard not to empathize with the plight of these dreamers.

On the other hand, there's the Sam Mendes-directed Away We Go, the tale of Burt and Verona, a pair of Q (not using the word...you know what it is) intellectuals; she's some sort of technical artist of medical illustrations, he's a salesman that likes to whittle wood in his spare time and dream of a "Tom Sawyer-like" childhood for his soon-to-be-born offspring. Oh, and get this - they think they're "f*ck-ups" because they're in the their early-30s and have a piece of cardboard for a window in their Colorado trailer home. And Burt's parents, who were deemed to be the de facto baby-sitters of the coming grandchild, are moving to Belgium or some such Euro destination. Woe is them! Whatever will they do?

Here's what they'll do: this supposedly lower-class couple of f*ck-ups will tour North America in search of a new place to settle down. They'll fly to Phoenix, then drive to Madison, Montreal, Miami, and god knows how many other places, all while the audience sits back and wonders how they're able to afford this what-seems-like-a-month-long vacation, seeing as how they can't afford to fix a window. Along the way, they'll be re-affirmed in the notion that everyone else out there, no matter how well-off they might seem financially or emotionally, is just as screwed up as they are, if not worse. And they'll end up in the most logical of destinations, the one place they never considered in the first place.

Now you tell me - how am I supposed to feel bad for Burt and Verona after watching Willy and Sayra? Is there any context in which they don't come off as whiny, self-entitled twits? Waah, Colorado isn't perfect for us, so we're gonna just freely travel anywhere the hell we want, with no concern for finances, to find the Utopia for our unborn child. En route, we'll act like ungrateful children to people because we don't agree with their lifestyle and we'll bolt anywhere at the first sign of trouble. Meanwhile, Willy and Sayra will risk their lives for drinking water and the privilege of changing clothes.

Amazingly, I didn't hate either Burt, Verona, or Away We Go. John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph made for a likable couple, Buffalo Exchange-duds and magical vacation money notwithstanding. And, despite their circumstantial differences, the Away couple isn't really all that different from the Nombre one: regardless of where you're born, we can all identify with the notion of wanting to make our lives better, and just as it's not the fault of the person in poverty for being born there, it's not the fault of the middle-class denizen for being born there.

But it is entirely acceptable to hate the Away couple played by Maggie Gyllenhaal and Josh Hamilton. They're just douchebags.

Fletch's Film Rating:
Away We Go

"You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you."

Sin Nombre

"Darn tootin!"

7 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Away We Go and Sin Nombre"

Mrs Fletch said...

LOVE that you put these two together in one post.

Napier's News said...

Both were good movies. Check out my reviews here:

Sin Nombre - http://www.napiersnews.com/2009/04/sin-nombre-review.html

Away We Go - http://www.napiersnews.com/2009/06/away-we-go-movie-review.html

Farzan said...

Good thoughts Fletch, Away We Go did seem like a flick I would watch just because its Sam Mendes directing it. I haven't seen or heard much about Sin Nombre. A couple of my friends online saw it and said they loved it so I'm sure its good.

Fletch said...

Mrs. Fletch - thanks! You know I love to mix movie reviews that might not seem like proper gits...

Napier - will do!

Farzan - Yeah, I'd recommend both...just not back-to-back, probably.

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

I'm seeing Away We Go in...2 hours.

Books,Coffee,etc.... said...

Hi! Fletch,
After reading your reviews of both films. I can hardly wait to watch
Sin Nombre...Because I watched a docu(mentary)
(On television, which I very rarely, if ever watch...television that is!) about the plight of immigrants, trying to cross the borders while riding on the top of train roofs.
On the other hand, I may wait for "Away We Go" to come out on DVD.

DeeDee ;-D

Daniel Getahun said...

"just as it's not the fault of the person in poverty for being born there, it's not the fault of the middle-class denizen for being born there."

This is true, of course, until you the enter the thorny possibility that the middle-class denizen is perpetuating the poverty the other person will be born into.

But that's a thought for another time. Great combo of two movies with surprisingly similar themes. I never would have thought of it.