The Way, Way Back
The Way, Way Back Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Written by
  • Nat Faxon
  • Jim Rash
Produced by
  • Kevin J. Walsh
  • Tom Rice
CinematographyJohn Bailey
Edited byTatiana S. Riegel
Music byRob Simonsen
Distributed byFox Searchlight Pictures
Release dates
  • January 21, 2013 (2013-01-21) (Sundance)
  • July 5, 2013 (2013-07-05) (United States)
Running time
103 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$5 million[2][3]
Box office$26.9 million[3]

The Way, Way Back is a 2013 American coming-of-age comedy-drama film written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash in their directorial debuts. It stars Liam James as Duncan, an introverted 14-year-old who goes on summer vacation to Wareham, Massachusetts with his mother and her overbearing boyfriend. It also stars Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, and Maya Rudolph, with Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, Faxon, and Rash in supporting roles.

Faxon and Rash conceived the film in the early 2000s; however, it spent several years in development hell before funding could be secured. Eventually, Fox Searchlight Pictures (the same studio which distributed other independent films such as Little Miss Sunshine and Juno) agreed to distribute the film. Filming lasted several months during summer 2012. It premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival,[4] and had a wider release on July 5, 2013, where it received positive reviews and was a box office success, grossing $26.9 million against its $5 million budget.


Introverted 14-year-old Duncan from Albany, New York, reluctantly goes on summer vacation to a beach house in Wareham, Massachusetts with his mother, Pam; her wealthy boyfriend, Trent; and Trent's arrogant daughter, Steph. Trent constantly puts Duncan down, frequently making comments and gestures that are condescending and rude to him. Steph follows suit in attitude towards him and is spoiled.

On the way to the beach house, Trent asks Duncan to rate himself on a scale of one to ten; he says a six while Trent says he thinks he's a three. At the house they are greeted by the neighbors: the gregarious, hard-drinking Betty, her children Susanna and Peter, and married couple Kip and Joan. Later that evening, Duncan and Susanna have an awkward conversation from their adjacent porches.

Duncan discovers a small girl's bicycle in the garage, using it to explore the town. At a pizzeria, he runs into the staff of Water Wizz, the local water park. He meets Owen, who eventually takes him under his wing and shows him around the park. Duncan meets the park's colorful, rag-tag group of employees: Caitlin, Lewis, and Roddy. Several youths at the water park speak reverently of a legendary pass in the tube slide, wondering how it could have been done. Owen hires Duncan for odd jobs at the park.

Outside the park, Duncan is continually neglected by Pam, who indulges in drinking, staying out at night, and smoking marijuana with other adult vacationers. At a Fourth of July cookout, Susanna sees that he is upset and invites him to go hunting for ghost crabs with her and Peter, where they both open up about their absent fathers. Later that night, Duncan witnesses Trent and Joan kissing, but does not tell anyone.

Pam begins to suspect Trent and Joan are having an affair, but he convinces her nothing is going on. Later, Duncan confronts Pam in front of friends and neighbors and tells her to face up to Trent's affair and get rid of him. Trent interjects, and Duncan insults and shoves him; Trent indignantly tells Duncan his divorced father does not want him.

Duncan stomps away, and Susanna follows and comforts him out on the beach. When he tries to kiss her she moves away, which upsets him even more. Accompanied by Peter, Duncan sneaks away to Water Wizz where Owen is throwing a going-away party for Lewis.

After spending all night with his friends at Water Wizz, Duncan is still at the park the next morning, refusing to leave. When Owen confronts him, Duncan opens up about his relationship with Trent and how the water park is the only place where he feels happy and accepted. Owen sympathizes with Duncan, recalling his upbringing where he was forced to abide by strict rules and patterns. He advises Duncan to disregard Trent's criticisms and go his own way.

When Duncan returns to the beach house, Pam tells him they are all leaving. Betty and her kids arrive to say their goodbyes, and Susanna finally kisses Duncan. When Trent stops for gas on their way out of town, Duncan jumps out of the station wagon and runs to Water Wizz, followed by his mother, Trent and Steph.

Duncan tells Owen and the other employees that he has to leave and tells Owen to follow him. They go to the Devil's Peak slide, and Duncan becomes the first person to ever pass someone in the water slide while the rest of the park watches.

After finally introducing Owen to his mother, Duncan says goodbye to everyone at the park. Owen tells Pam of Duncan’s good nature, and introduces himself to Trent as "a good friend of the three.” Trent then attempts to bypass Owen in order to bring Duncan back to the car, but Owen blocks him and Trent retreats. Duncan hugs and thanks Owen "for everything." Trent, Steph, Pam and Duncan regroup in the car, where Pam finally stands up for herself as they head out of town. Pam climbs to the “way way back” of the car where Duncan is sitting, and they share a smile as Trent's protests are heard in the background.



Box office

The film had its premiere screening at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.[4] It was one of the most financially successful films to come out of the festival that year, outperforming well-known entries and Oscar-nominated films from the previous year.[5] It was released on July 5, 2013 in 19 theaters and surpassed box office expectations, averaging an impressive $30,263 per screen and grossing $525,000 for the weekend.[6] On July 15, 2013, it was added to an additional 60 theaters and grossed $1.1 million. It ended up earning $21.5 million in North America and $5 million elsewhere, for a total of $26.5 million.[7][8]

Critical response

The Way, Way Back received positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a rating of 83% based on 185 reviews, with an average score of 7.30/10. The website's critical consensus states, "Despite its familiar themes, The Way Way Back makes use of its talented cast, finely tuned script, and an abundance of charm to deliver a funny and satisfying coming-of-age story".[9] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 68 out of 100 based on 41 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[10]

Inkoo Kang of The Village Voice called the film "a crowd-pleasing summer treat, predictable in its sweetness but satisfying all the same".[11] BBC Radio 5 Live film critic Mark Kermode praised the performances of Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney and Maya Rudolph and similarly reasoned that whilst "it's not world-changing, or earth-shattering" the film is "really sweet and funny".[12] David Gritten of The Daily Telegraph also praised the scene-stealing performances of Janney and Rockwell, concluding that despite a flood of similar coming-of-age films released in 2013 the film "feels warm, funny—and even fresh".[13] Catherine Shoard of The Guardian gave the film a positive review, concluding that "for all the longueurs, there are still enough moments of near brilliance to sustain you through the trip".[14] Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times commended the film's quirky dialogue and cast performances, calling the film "witty, heartwarming, hopeful, sentimental, searing and relatable".[15]

Sam Rockwell's performance was met with critical praise, with many critics agreeing that his performance was deserving of an Academy Award nomination.[16][17] MaryAnn Johanson of Flick Filosopher said that Rockwell "makes the biggest splash with a sizzling supporting performance. Not only is he naturally funny, but he has the great ability to make every sharp line of dialogue sound freshly improvised."[18]

A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club gave the film a C+, describing it as "generically constructed" and "never as refreshing as it's constantly straining to be".[19]


List of Awards and Nominations
Award Category Recipients Result
AARP Movies for Grownups Awards[20] Best Comedy The Way, Way Back Won
Critics' Choice Movie Awards[21] Best Comedy Nominated
Best Actor in a Comedy Sam Rockwell Nominated
Best Young Actor/Actress Liam James Nominated
MTV Movie Awards[22] Best Breakthrough Performance Liam James Nominated
Online Film Critics Society[23] Best Supporting Actor Sam Rockwell Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards 2013[24] Best Actor in a Supporting Role Sam Rockwell Nominated
Best Ensemble Acting Nominated
Breakthrough Performance on Camera Liam James Nominated
Best Performance by a Youth in a Lead or Supporting Role – Male Liam James Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society[25] Best Supporting Actor Sam Rockwell Nominated
Best Ensemble Performance Nominated
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association[26] Best Comedy Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association[27] Best Acting Ensemble Nominated
Best Youth Performance Liam James Nominated
Young Artist Awards[28] Best Leading Young Actor in a Feature Film Liam James Nominated
Best Supporting Young Actor in a Feature Film River Alexander Nominated


Heather Phares of AllMusic gave the film's soundtrack 7 out of 10 stars, saying:

The charming coming of age comedy The Way Way Back soundtracks its tale of 14-year-old Duncan's fateful summer working at the Water Wizz water park with bouncy '80s hits and indie rock. ... While the collection isn't as consistent as the soundtracks to like-minded films such as Juno or Little Miss Sunshine, it still has enough personality to be an entertaining set of songs.[29]

  1. "For the Time Being" – Edie Brickell/The Gaddabouts
  2. "Kyrie" – Mr. Mister
  3. "Out the Door" – Ben Kweller
  4. "Come and See" – Young Galaxy
  5. "Running Wild" – Army Navy
  6. "Young Blood" – UFO
  7. "Shine" – Wild Belle
  8. "New Sensation" – INXS
  9. "Sneaking Sally Through the Alley" – Robert Palmer
  10. "Young at Heart" – The Rondo Brothers/Tim Myers
  11. "Recess" – Eli "Paperboy" Reed
  12. "Power Hungry Animals" – The Apache Relay
  13. "Alone" – Trampled by Turtles
  14. "Go Where the Love Is" – Edie Brickell/The Gaddabouts
  15. "The Way Way Back" – Rob Simonsen[29]

Other songs


  1. ^ "THE WAY WAY BACK (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. May 16, 2014. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  2. ^ Chai, Barbara (July 3, 2013). "The Water Park Behind 'The Way, Way Back'". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
  3. ^ a b "The Way Way Back (2013) – Financial Information". The Numbers.
  4. ^ a b "The Way, Way Back". Sundance Film Festival. The Sundance Institute. Archived from the original on December 30, 2012. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
  5. ^ Cunningham, Todd (August 8, 2013). "Sundance 2013 Pickups Are Outperforming Last Year's Crop". TheWrap. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
  6. ^ Knegt, Peter (July 8, 2013). "Specialty Box Office: 'Way, Way Back' Scores Strong Debut; 'Midnight' Tops 'Sunrise' and 'Sunset'". IndieWire. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
  7. ^ "The Way, Way Back – International Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  8. ^ "The Way Way Back". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 3, 2014.
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  10. ^ "The Way Way Back Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
  11. ^ Kang, Inkoo (July 3, 2013). "The Way, Way Back Offers a Sugar High, but Not Much More". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on July 12, 2013. Retrieved July 12, 2013.
  12. ^ Kermode, Mark (August 30, 2013). "Mark Kermode reviews The Way, Way Back". Kermode and Mayo's Film Review. BBC. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  13. ^ Gritten, David (August 29, 2013). "The Way, Way Back, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  14. ^ Shoard, Catherine (August 29, 2013). "The Way, Way Back – review". The Guardian. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  15. ^ Sharkey, Betsy (July 4, 2013). "Movie review: The Way, Way Back has a sweet side and a sting – review". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
  16. ^ Seibert, Perry. "The Way Way Back Review". TV Guide. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  17. ^ Movieline (July 8, 2013). "The Way Way Back – Movie Review". Retrieved August 13, 2015 – via YouTube.
  18. ^ Johanson, MaryAnn (August 27, 2013). "The Way, Way Back review: how to escape from your family". Flick Filosopher. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  19. ^ Dowd, A.A. (July 4, 2013). "The Way, Way Back". The A.V. Club. Retrieved December 23, 2013.
  20. ^ Sikaly, Andrea (January 6, 2014). "AARP Names '12 Years a Slave' Best Movie for Grownups". Variety. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  21. ^ Website Administrator (December 16, 2013). "19th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards Nominations". Critics' Choice Awards. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  22. ^ Oldenburg, Ann (March 6, 2014). "MTV announces 2014 Movie Award nominees". USA Today. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  23. ^ Renninger, Bryce J. (December 9, 2013). "Online Film Critics Announce Nominees; Miyazaki and To Surprise with Multiple Nominations". IndieWire. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
  24. ^ "Phoenix Film Critics Society 2013 Award Nominations". Phoenix Film Critics Society. Archived from the original on December 13, 2013. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
  25. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (December 10, 2013). "2013 San Diego Film Critics Society nominations". HitFix. Archived from the original on February 14, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
  26. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (December 9, 2013). "2013 St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association nominations". HitFix. Archived from the original on April 8, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
  27. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (December 8, 2013). "2013 Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association winners". HitFix. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
  28. ^ "2014 Nominations & Results". Young Artist Awards. Archived from the original on May 8, 2014. Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  29. ^ a b Phares, Heather (July 3, 2013). "The Way Way Back – Original Soundtrack". AllMusic. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  30. ^ CdmScott (July 12, 2013). "The Way, Way Back". Cinema de Merde. Retrieved September 17, 2016.