We’ve seen just about every variation of a drama revolving around a pair of unlikely friends done over a thousand times. Their relationship develops over the course of the film, usually much to one’s chagrin: they take on the world together for a brief time, they proclaim their love, they fight, and then they make up right before the movie concludes with one of their deaths. It’s a classic setup that, when done well, can be timeless. Away is yet another feature part of this kindred spirits subgenre, but one that unfortunately fails to make a lasting impression.
Our rough-around-the-edges female protagonist, Ria (Juno Temple), runs away from her abusive boyfriend/pimp, Dex (Matt Ryan) – after stealing a large amount of drugs and cash – to Blackpool, the “Las Vegas of the North”, and the city in the off-season provides the eerie abandoned-carnival backdrop for the unfolding drama. Her relationship to Joseph, a misanthropic middle-aged man in the throes of a deep depression (Timothy Spall) remains unclear for the first half of the film, despite the intense nature of their shared moments. We eventually come to learn through a series of flashbacks that he inadvertently helped Ria in her escape from Dex, and supposedly this is the foundation of their friendship. The pair somehow end up in Blackpool together and in a very manic pixie dream girl-esque fashion, Ria pesters Joseph to lighten up and let go until real life catches up with them in the form of a very angry Dex.
Where this film succeeds is in the visually stunning locations and spectacular lighting. Director David Blair captures perfectly the strangely titillating yet perverse world that is the essence of an empty amusement park. There’s a beautiful juxtaposition of the carnival, a place that should be full of life and excitement, and the actual reality of the situation. Unfortunately, the impressive visual composition of Away is not enough to make up for where it lacks in plot and character development.
Despite sincere performances from both actors, one can’t help but feel uninspired by the relationship between Ria and Joseph. It’s difficult to understand why exactly Ria insists on staying with Joseph in Blackpool and being his friend, particularly because he so aggressively pushes her away. Without establishing this crucial point, the film becomes a tired amalgamation of all the slightly melodramatic expository plot points. Regrettably, Away lacks the kind of engaging, exciting, and understandable central relationship that is so vital for a movie that depends on the characters and their interactions to captivate the audience.
Away is released nationwide on 12th May 2017.
Watch the trailer for Away here: