‘The three S’s are: no separation, no sugar, no strollers’. This is just one of the madcap couples that Verona (Maya Rudolph) and Burt (John Krasinski) encounter on their quest to find the perfect American city to raise their child.
After a disappointing dinner with Burt’s parents in which they discover that they are moving to Europe just a month before the baby is due, the couple realise that they have nothing tying them to the sleepy town in which they live, and seek to find somewhere full of friends and support in which to start their family. Burt’s parents are played by Jeff Daniels, (The Squid and the Whale) and Catherine O’Hara, and both deliver brilliant comic cameo performances, including a particularly inappropriate moment, asking ‘how black will the baby be?’
Highlights of their journey include their encounter with the Herrins; played by Maggie Gyllenhaal and Josh Hamilton, the pair are a hippy couple in the extreme sense of the word, with very unconventional views about parenting. Gyllenhaal is sensual as well as being excellently funny in her role, and challenges Allison Jenney as the most memorable female cameo in the movie: Jenney is superb as the brash, loud Lily, Verona’s old boss, who speaks awfully about her children in front of them as if they were animals and couldn’t hear.
The film explores the trials and tribulations of having too many options and facing the inability to choose. Burt and Verona discuss the pros and cons of parenting, exploring extremes such as morality, worries and pressures of real family life. Although they constantly compare themselves to those around them, director Sam Mendes demonstrates that no couple can ever be fully ready, as every child is unique and every family different.
Love is the answer, not marriage is the unconventional conclusion of the film, as Mendes tells a story which proves that there is no perfect way to raise a family.