#REVIEW: “C’MON C’MON”
Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
Mike Mills’ latest is a special film that has the power to make us feel less alone.
Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) is a Radio Journalist who travels the country interviewing kids about their thoughts on their world and future. When his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffman) asks him to care for her son Jesse (Woody Norman) while she aides to Jesse’s father, Johnny heads to California. Viv soon realizes she may need more time, so Johnny brings Jesse along to New York City for his job. The more time they spend together the more they learn from each other.
C’mon C’mon’s narrative is simple but it says a lot. At its core is a story of an uncle and nephew building a strong bond. With every scene, we watch as Jesse helps unravel the emotionally stunted Johnny. Phoenix and Norman are the duo of the decade. Their chemistry enhances this already tender film. Jesse’s emotional impact on Johnny is first examined when Johnny loses Jesse in a store. Once he finds him, the fear turns to anger and then regret as Johnny scolds Jesse for running off. The emotions of Phoenix’s raw performance are palpable. His portrayal of Johnny can be added to his lengthy list of outstanding performances. Mills’ honest, heartwarming screenplay is filled with adult-child moments like these.
Additionally, Mills shows how intelligent and manipulative children can be. They know exactly where to press your buttons. In order to stay with his uncle, Jesse refuses to leave a public bathroom until Johnny agrees to let him stay. Norman is mesmerizing and solidifies a long career ahead. He shows talent beyond his years as he navigates Jesse’s understanding of family and the world, along with showing Jesse’s way of escaping the heaviness of his life. Our emotions are linked to how Jesse feels, and Norman brings us on an emotional rollercoaster ride.
Although this story is about the bond between men, it emphasizes the pressures mothers face. Viv does everything she can to care for her son and his father. She’s constantly being pulled in multiple directions, having to be stern but empathetic. Hoffman is outstanding. She encompasses the stress and compassion of being a mother. With each phone call made to Johnny and Jesse, Hoffman shows with subtlety Viv’s yearning to be with her son and her restraint due to needing to care for his father.
In-between the central story are real interviews the Filmmakers took with children and teenagers. The weaving of these interviews with Johnny and Jesse’s narrative is perfect cinematic storytelling. We hear from children about their fears and desires along with topics like climate change, politics and more. Most importantly, we are reminded that if we listen to children they have a lot to teach us.
The stunning black-and-white Cinematography creates nostalgia and reinforces the message that we forget some of our childhood memories once we become adults. The swoon-worthy Score from The National’s Bryce and Aaron Dessner carries us along Mills’ deeply moving Family Drama. By the time the Credits roll, you’ll be calling, ‘C’mon, don’t end!’.
VVS Films release C’MON C’MON on November 26, 2021 in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa before expanding on December 3, 2021.