Duncan is just a normal teenage boy on holiday with his mother, her annoying boyfriend, and his stepsister Steph. Bored out of his mind, Duncan mopes around desperately waiting for the summer to end, until getting a job at a nearby theme park gives him an unexpected reason to be happy. Having made friends with Owen, the park’s manager, Duncan gradually comes into his own as he realises that he doesn’t have to be the person everyone else expects him to be.
The casting is brilliant: Liam James makes a very believable socially inept teen, and Sam Rockwell does a fantastic job as the accidental father figure. Steve Carell is, for once, cast as a genuinely bad guy and manages it unexpectedly well: the overbearing bully of a stepfather is one of those characters everyone loves to hate.
It’s from the producers of Juno and Little Miss Sunshine, and you can tell: the same quirky spirit shines through in The Way, Way Back. It doesn’t feel quite as ‘indie’ as Juno, but it’s a similar sort of film all the same: a charming coming-of-age tale showing how hard it can be to define yourself in a place where you’ve never really felt at home.
It probably won’t change your life, unless you’re sixteen and in Duncan’s shoes, but it’s a genuinely good – and at times quite poignant – summer flick that’ll leave you with warm happy feelings.