Mendes and his wife, Kate Winslet, shared the awards spotlight earlier this year
By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News, in Edinburgh
Road to Perdition director Sam Mendes has followed his Oscar-nominated Revolutionary Road with a light-hearted road movie called Away We Go.
It represents, the 43-year-old acknowledges, a change of pace from his most recent film - a dark portrait of a disintegrating marriage starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, Mendes' wife.
Away We Go focuses on another young couple, played by John Krasinski from the US version of The Office and Maya Rudolph from long-running comedy show Saturday Night Live.
Their journey, though, is considerably less fraught than that endured by some of Mendes' other big-screen protagonists.
Undecided where best to raise the child they are expecting, the pair visit friends and relatives in Phoenix, Tucson, Montreal and Miami.
Their travels see them encounter a range of colourful eccentrics, played variously by Jeff Daniels, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Allison Janney from TV's The West Wing.
Maya Rudolph and Krasinski play a couple expecting their first child
Though poignant in places, the general tone is genial and humorous - something Mendes admits may have been a reaction to Revolutionary Road.
"Having just worked on such a bleak film, I was obviously ready to make something that was the polar opposite," he told reporters at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
"I'm not someone who believes men and women are destined to be apart, so this felt closer to my own philosophy about life."
Chosen to launch this year's festival on Wednesday, Away We Go is the fourth film Mendes has made since his debut feature, American Beauty, won him a best director Oscar.
The Reading-born filmmaker admits having so much success with his first movie has occasionally been a mixed blessing.
"I was gifted a career in movies and I had a successful first film," he said, when asked about the expectation that now surrounds each new project.
"Sometimes it's a pressure, and sometimes it's a pain in the arse.
"You want to get on and make something without it being cross-referenced against your plays, your films and your life."
Mendes was joined by actors Krasinski and Carmen Ejogo in Edinburgh
All of Mendes' films are set in America and involve what he calls "central characters who are lost and are trying to find a way through".
The fact that he and Winslet have a young son, however, suggests he might have found a personal resonance in Away We Go's story.
The director admits that "there is always something you connect with personally in every movie you make".
He feels, though, that the concerns of Away We Go are "something everyone goes through - trying to find where you belong, what constitutes home and how you deal with your past".
The director's recent past includes bringing two star-studded stage plays - Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale and Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard - to London's Old Vic theatre.
Mendes attributes his ongoing passion for the stage as one of the reasons why there have often been long intervals between his films.
"I've got two careers," he explains. "I also direct plays. That's something I love doing and don't want to stop."
Winslet joined her husband at Away We Go's New York premiere on 1 June but did not travel to Edinburgh for Wednesday's screening.
"Kate's at home looking after the kids," Mendes revealed. "One of us has to look after the family when the other goes to work."
Away We Go is out in the UK on 18 September.