Directed by: Jelle de Jonge | 98 minutes | comedy, romance | Actors: Katja Herbers, Lykele Muus, Carly Wijs, Maarten Heijmans, Imanuelle Grives, Elise Schaap, Guy Clemens, Margot Ros, Patrick Stoof, Leny Breederveld, Bas Hoeflaak, Nick Golterman, Pepijn Scheneveld, Sergio Herman
For the average well-known Dutch person, the Netherlands stops where the Randstad ends. Even if they were born in “the province”, they flee as soon as possible to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague or Utrecht to seek refuge there. Of course there is more to do there for people working in the entertainment world. But to be condescending about everything that lies outside the Randstad … The romantic comedy “Away from you” (2017) plays in a nice way with that misplaced feeling of superiority. Evi (Katja Herbers) from Rotterdam lives in a beautiful penthouse, from where she looks out over the Rotterdam skyline. She has a great job with an international construction company that specializes in road and hydraulic engineering, and is also about to make a big promotion. Since the company has just landed a major job in Rio de Janeiro, Evi already sees herself sitting with a cocktail at the Copacabana. Her boyfriend Lennart (Lykele Muus) is already counting herself rich. But then her manager Renate (Carly Wijs) turns out to have very different plans for her. She will certainly receive an important assignment. Only not in sunny and fashionable Rio, but in the Dutch clay of Zeeuws Vlaanderen. Is that a disappointment!
With fresh reluctance, Evi leaves for Zeeuws Vlaanderen, where her company wants to build the largest sea lock in Europe. Without Lennart, because there is no point in his head that he is in the swampy Zeeland clay… If Evi gets this job done as quickly, she may still be allowed to go to Rio afterwards. But that is easier said than done. Firstly, she does not understand people, secondly, she feels completely out of place. The Zeelanders do not like her spoiled Randstad habits and customs; they are sober, straightforward and steadfast. Evi soon discovers that these people do not just leave their houses because she wants to build a lock there if necessary. There is an action group that does not just give up. The spokesperson for the company is the mysterious skipper Stijn (Maarten Heijmans), with whom Evi has already had a couple of times. As long as Evi clings to her Randstad vision of the world, she will not get anything done here. She slowly thaws. She gets to know the people better, appreciates the beautiful nature and experiences the charm of Zeeland life. Moreover, warm feelings for Stijn develop. But then Lennart is suddenly on the doorstep of her Zeeland rental house …
The flood disaster of 1953, mussels and unintelligible accents. That is how far Evi’s knowledge of Zeelandic Flanders reaches. And perhaps also that of a large part of the viewing public. That is precisely why Jan Lievens came up with the idea about five years ago to put the region on the map with a film. “Many people simply don’t know our region. It is time to change that. ” Thanks to crowdfunding and support from local sponsors, approximately half of the total budget of 1.8 million euros could be raised. Lievens produced the film together with Nynke van der Ploeg; Anna Drijver, among others, was brought in to edit the screenplay. The direction is in the hands of Jelle de Jonge (“Bon Bini Holland”, 2015). A select group of Zeeuws-Vlamingen, who were allowed to attend a pre-premiere, have already enthusiastically responded to “Weg van je”; their region splashes off the canvas. As the film progresses, the beauty of the Zeeland landscape is increasingly highlighted. On the one hand tough, down to earth and the paragon of simplicity, on the other hand a country of Burgundians, bon vivants and beautiful nature.
As an ode to Zeeland in general and Zeeuws-Vlaanderen in particular, “Weg van je” has certainly been a success. But also as a romantic comedy, this film is certainly enjoyable, not least thanks to the excellent cast. Side characters played by Margot Ros, Patrick Stoof and Guy Clemens, among others, give humor and even a hint of absurdism to the whole. We also see Peter Bolhuis, Imanuelle Grives, Elise Schaap and Zeeuws-Flemish master chef Sergio Herman in light supporting roles. But this is really the film by Katja Herbers and Maarten Heijmans. Herbers knows how to make the transition that her character is experiencing tangible; initially we think she is an arrogant and spoiled brat, who looks down on the Zeelanders. As soon as she opens her eyes and puts her yoga mat and earplugs aside to sniff the Zeeland nature and culture, she thaws. Heijmans stole our hearts with his more than impressive portrayal of Ramses Shaffy in the series ‘Ramses’ (2014), which rightly earned him a Golden Calf and an International Emmy Award. A role in a cream bowl is a different story, but Heijmans does not turn its hand to that either. He steals every scene he is in.
Of course we can also comment on “Away from you”. The genre of the romantic comedy usually does not excel in originality and in this case too you can see from miles away where the story is going. Here and there we see superfluous and exaggerated symbolism (literally letting the spark skip when a light is replaced, for example, that’s really too much of a good thing) and except for the main characters, the characters are superficially developed. The message – turn off those screens and experience the real world – is not new or original, but it is completely contemporary. “Weg van je” does not pretend to be an innovative film, but nice entertainment in which an underexposed but beautiful region in the Netherlands can steal the show. And it worked.