Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 17, 2013
Liam James, as Duncan, in this movie “The Way, Way Back” illustrates the oedipal pain of a fourteen year old boy, wanting to see his mother happy, wanting to see himself happy, yet feeling helpless and alone while his divorced mother pursues a relationship that hurts both of them. The title suggests the place in those old station wagons from the 70’s, but at the same time, hints at going back to an earlier time where a boy could love his mother, without the awareness that his mother has her own psychological and sexual needs which he, the child, cannot fulfill. The separation from his mother, that an adolescent boy goes through, was brought to light by Sigmund Freud. The boy loves his mother, but has to suffer the rejection that his mother loves a grown-up man. This separation spurs the pursuit for another relationship, and so Duncan, unconsciously, it seems like, goes hunting for a new family. This pursuit helps Duncan emerge as a unique being, which, then gives one hope that his mother will also find a loving environment. It is a “sweet” movie in that the pain is quiet. We understand Duncan through what he does not say, more than what he does. At first, I wondered if he was socially impaired, but as the movie unfolded, he was inhibited by his negative feelings about his life, and not about a misunderstanding of people. In fact, as so often happens, while he was appearing to be awkward, he was actually being quite perceptive. There is pain and there is love, and neither one is very tidy. I liked that.