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The Way Way Back – Film4

Steve Carell and Toni Collette greet a soaking wet Sam Rockwell and Liam James
(Image credit: Claire Folger)

An irresistibly charming coming-of-age comedy. 4/5 stars

Funny, touching and irresistibly charming, this coming-of-age comedy gets the pains and awkwardness of adolescence spot on.

Tongue-tied, self-conscious 14-year-old Liam James is on summer holiday with his insecure mother Toni Collette and her creepy, controlling boyfriend Steve Carell and his snippy daughter Zoe Levin. Life couldn't be more miserable until Liam gets a job at the ramshackle local water park run by the endearingly lazy Sam Rockwell.

There is excellent support from the likes of Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph and AnnaSophia Robb, and the script ripples with jokes and japes, and some real feeling, too. But it's Rockwell's enormously winning performance that steals the film.

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.