The Way Way Back

November 8, 2013 at 12:23 pm 2 comments

Did you see it?  Did you say OMG it follows the Virgin’s Journey incredibly!?  My friend Laurel said I had to see it and I am so glad she pointed me towards The Way Way Back.  Such a great film.  I also love it when people recognize the virgin structure.  You couldn’t have missed the secret world.  I loved the metaphor of a place nobody wants to go to when there is all the glitz of the beach.  So often people don’t want to go inside themselves when they can get distracted by easier things.


I’ll go through the beats in a minute, bit first I want to point out how great the side relationships were.  Such great writing.  The mom is in her own dependent world trying to find a definition of herself through a relationship.  “My mom doesn’t smoke pot” Duncan says while his mom giggles from being high in the background.  So poignant when the mom tries to explain that you do things to be safe – not recognizing that he is a 14 year old boy trying to find a place of belonging and swallowing the jerk moves of her boyfriend daily.  I think he knows how to make himself small to fit in and is desperate for a role model of how to stop doing it.

I love how the movie doesn’t have Duncan begging to stay with Owen.  He and his mom need each other and Owen shows her how to step in and be the parent Duncan needs.  The mom grows up when she recognizes Duncan is the one man (even if he is a boy) who she needs to align herself with.

The second great side relationship is between Owen and his boss.  She has spent 3 years coming back to manage the summer fun park as an investment in Owen.  But she gets tired of having to be the adult next to his Peter Pan and calls “Enough!”  Owen rises to the challenge and becomes more of the man she needs.  It is beautiful.  Lots of people growing in response to their feelings of genuine love.

OK here is my interpretation of the beats of the movie.  Spoiler Alert.

1. Dependent World: Duncan, a 14 year old boy whose parents are divorced, has to accept his mother’s boyfriend.

2. Price of Conformity: the boyfriend is a patriarchal jerk who wants Duncan to be more like him and tells him he is currently a 3.

3. Opportunity to Shine: they all go to his beach house for the summer and everyone’s efforts to plan his time send him to the garage to find a bike.

4.  Dress the Part: He jumps on a pink banana bike and explores on his own and tastes freedom.

5. Water Wizz becomes his secret world where he makes a friend, Owen, who gives him a place of belonging (a job), and an irreverent attitude towards what other people say about you.  He goes back and forth learning more how his mom is in a bad place and more of his own resources.

9. Kingdom in Chaos: mom’s boyfriend doesn’t come home and the teenagers take pity on her.  He lies his way out of it but his alibi doesn’t hold up.  All the kids know the beach is where parents act up.

6. No Longer Fits His World: Duncan challenges his mom to not turn a blind eye to a cheating behaviour. When she accept being treated badly, she is also accepting it for him.

8. Gives Up What Kept Him Stuck:  the boyfriend blurts out that Duncan’s dad doesn’t want him.  Duncan gives up the belief that all his problems will be solved by being with his dad.  His mom is the parent that kept him.  This is the reality he has to start with.

10. Wanders in the Wilderness: Duncan goes to Owen’s and learns that Owen had a similar father and now he is refusing to do anything that his father wanted him to.  No rules, no seriousness… perpetual childhood.

9. Kingdom in Chaos: Duncan returns the next morn to finds they are all going back home.  His mom has not been able to make a break from her boyfriend.

10. W in the W: Duncan tries to get his mom to stay at the beach with him.  She won’t.

11.  Chooses his Light:  when they stop for gas Duncan jumps out and goes to Water Wizz to say goodbye and become a legend.  He passes Owen in the tunnel – never been done before.

7. Two Worlds Collide: His mother comes looking for him and sees he has been coming there and is the employee of the month.  He made a place for himself and he is happy.  The boyfriend comes in and takes charge wanting to get Duncan under control.

12. Rescue: Owen steps between Duncan and the boyfriend, showing the mom how it is done.

13. The Kingdom is Brighter:  The mom moves to the back seat with Duncan making the point that first and foremost they are a team and the boyfriend has to go, which is good for both of them.


Entry filed under: Film Summaries. Tags: , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Laurel  |  November 8, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Laurel here. Really enjoyed how you summarized this movie. It was a joy to watch and I love the way it fits with the virgin’s theme. The title of the movie is apt. It has more than one meaning (always a good thing for a title to have). The final beat where the mother sits with her son is such a big part of the movie and the title describes it. We had a station wagon and called that area “the back back” as kids. The “Way Way Back” also fits it.

  • 2. Lorne  |  November 8, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Kim: I havn’t seen the film but your enthusiasm and analysis is all the incentive I need.
    Brilliant as always. My question is this: with films with such solid archetypal structure, to what extent are the beats consciously constructed?
    Thanks again – I will see this movie!


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