In a time where sequels, remakes, reboots and special effect-driven popcorn fantasies dominate film screens across the world, it is refreshing to sometimes see a movie that does not fit this tired description. The film I am referring to is We Go Way Back and it is an honest, endearing and well-crafted picture. It isn’t about superheroes, animated critters or regurgitated ideas. It is about people, flesh and blood people and the problems that come along with life and growing up.
Meet Kate (Amber Hubert), a 23-year-old actress. She, like most twentysomethings, works a menial job to pay the bills while pursuing her passion on the side. That passion shines through when she performs in her local theater group. She is young, talented and full of lots of potential. Her social life is decent as well. She goes out, drinks, smokes and occasionally has casual sex. She is alive however she isn’t really living.
Throughout most of the film, Kate just goes through the motions. She lets others walk over and take advantage of her. She doesn’t really seem to care about much of anything that is until she comes across a letter she wrote to herself when she was 13. The letter was written to her adult self and basically serves as a method of self-analysis and comparison. Kate wrote the letter as a child, innocent and full of hope, almost the complete and polar opposite of what Kate has actually become.
As Kate’s life gets more depressing and moves further away from the life her 13-year-old self dreamed of, things get interesting. Kate eventually comes face to face with her former self in a surrealistic manner. This then causes present-day Kate to examine her life and try to improve the way in which she is living.
We Go Way Back tells a great story and it poses a thought-provoking premise: what if you came face to face with yourself as a child? Would you warn yourself of the future pain and misery you will experience? Will you impart wisdom and sound advice so that you won’t repeat the mistakes you made in the first place? This film beautifully conveys that possibility and is an absolute pleasure to watch.
Filmmaker Lynn Shelton (Humpday) has put together a truly remarkable picture here. It is her first feature and that is very surprising because it is so masterfully done. Shelton directed it with expert precision. She wrote it as though the characters were real and edited it like a true artist. The editing is what really stood out for me. The scenes flowed into one another like poetry and the cuts were very aesthetically-pleasing.
The sound is also worth mentioning. At times, the dialogue fades in and out and the background noise takes over. This is a very clever technique that enhances the realistic nature of the film while at the same time, providing aural delight. The soundtrack is enjoyable as well with songs by Laura Veirs, Harvey Danger, The Decemberists among others.
Amber Hubert and the rest of the cast perform very well. There is a real sense of authenticity to the characters. Kate is a sad soul searching for true happiness. The appearance of her former self is a painful reminder of all the good she should have done with her life. She wrote that letter when she was 13 because she was hopeful that the path she eventually took would be a positive one. Maggie Brown plays 13-year-old Kate with plenty of innocence and the scenes she has with Hubert are among the best moments in the film. Also worth noting is actor Robert Hamilton Wright who provided some of the film’s only comic relief as Kate’s slightly eccentric theater director.
We Go Way Back is an entertaining and thought-provoking indie film. The acting is solid, the writing is tight, the direction is flawless and the editing is a thing of beauty. If you want to expose your eyes and ears to something of more substance than the usual fare the major studios are constantly pumping out these days, I highly suggest you give Lynn Shelton’s film a try. It’s quite good.