Away is where everyone wants to get to, once in a while, but here, it’s the mismatched pairing of widower Joseph (Timothy Spall) and ex-junkie Ria (Juno Temple), as they meet in a film which drew me in and I found to be very enchanting.
Meeting in Blackpool, fate brings them together as Joseph has become a hard-drinker following what’s happened, and he’s there because he used to visit Blackpool regularly with his wife. Ria is trying to escape from pusher Dex (Matt Ryan), a very nasty man in her life, and she doesn’t miss her late mother given the bad upbringing she had. Between the two of them, they’ve both been played a bad hand in life, but perhaps together they can find some common solace.
You could argue that this isn’t the most original film, as the two of them rub each other up the wrong way, yet need each other to get by, but there are few perfect odd couple-style pairings in the movies, and this is most definitely one of them.
A very welcome addition to the cast as Ria’s sister, Kaz, is Hayley Squires, who won a Best Supporting Actress BAFTA nomination for her powerhouse role in the brilliant I, Daniel Blake. It’s a shame she’s not in this film more, but Away does excel when the two leads are on screen. The pair exude fantastic chemistry and there’s some superb writing in this – showing Spall’s character off at his most dry, such as when referring to fish in the large, public aquarium:
- Ria: “Do you think they know they’re trapped?”
Joseph: “You’re only trapped if you allow yourself to be.”
and in a cafe:
- Ria: “(I’m) Going to meet my sister in a couple of hours. You’d like her.”
Joseph: “Is she anything like you?”
Ria: “Not really.”
Joseph: “I probably would, then.”
With flashbacks showing what led to both characters ending up in Blackpool, Away jumps about in its timeline a bit – even outside of those – but deservedly so, to cleverly explain certain elements of the plot.
Of course, trying to drink yourself into an early grave in Blackpool isn’t quite the same a location as that in Leaving Las Vegas, but director David Blair still conjures up inviting images of the Pleasure Beach which reminded me of happy times I had seeing them when I was a kid.
In addition, there’s a wonderful soundtrack from The Art of Noise‘s Anne Dudley in which you could listen to separately and, as per one of the song titles, you could lose yourself within it. There’s also a neat addition from Chopin‘s Nocturne in E flat Op.9 No.2. I guess you could say he’s the support act.
Overall, Away was a surprising delight to watch. Timothy Spall is a British acting legend, while Juno Temple shows she’s easily one to watch, which I knew from when she was so good in Horns, opposite Daniel Radcliffe.
It’s also one of those films which benefits from being seen again just after you’ve watched it the first time.
Away is one of the best films of the year so far. I have a feeling it’ll end up in my Top 10 Best Movies of 2017 and could even be considered as a future British classic.
Away is released in UK cinemas this Friday, and is also available to pre-order on DVD, ahead of its release on May 15th, and click on the poster for the full-size version.
Running time: 105 minutes
Studio: 101 Films Limited
Released: May 12th 2017
Director: David Blair
Producers: Michael Knowles, Terry Stone and Richard Turner
Screenplay: Roger Hadfield
Music: Anne Dudley
Joseph: Timothy Spall
Ria: Juno Temple
Dex: Matt Ryan
Kaz: Hayley Squires
Col: Tony Pitts
Angie: Susan Lynch
Landlord: Terry Stone
Damo: Reece Noi
Tanya: Joanna Roth
Cafe Worker: Adam Riley
Lead Cafe Worker: Nicola Szepecko
Cafe Manager: Ellie Wilkes
Kindly Waitress: Liz Hulme Davison
Woman in Arcade: Dannielle Raine Meyer (uncredited)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.