C’mon C’mon is a black-and-white drama written and directed by Mike Mills, author of independent films such as Beginners and 20th Century Women that earned him an Oscar nomination in the category of original screenplays. The film premiered at the Telluride Festival in Colorado in September, and the distribution was bought by the company A24, which released it in cinemas in the middle of last month.
C’mon C’mon movie review, plot
Joaquin Phoenix plays Johnny, a New York-based radio journalist tasked with interviewing children in various US cities to understand their current joys, worries, hopes and fears for the future. The plot arises when he visits his sister Viv in Los Angeles and agrees to take care of his nine-year-old nephew Jesse for a few days, a boy whom even his mother describes as strange. During that time, Viv will visit her mentally unstable husband Paul, who moved to Auckland and who needs medical help.
For any great journalist, filming other people means acknowledging that their stories, their experiences, and their voices are important. However, the journalist exists only during the interview and, unlike his subject, has the freedom to leave whenever he pleases. This is exactly what gives him a certain responsibility to take care of, listen to and deeply relate to the topic during the conversation, no matter how long it lasts. Johnny watches and listens to people from an objective perspective – these people are important to him, but they are only his job and that is where his responsibility for them ends.
We learn a lot about Johnny relatively quickly. He mourns his mother who understood and supported him, he had a long and serious relationship that ended for reasons he does not fully understand. His relationship with Viv became a series of quarrels, misunderstandings and mistakes that separated them from each other. On the other hand, Viv faces a lot of things in life and that is the reason why the two of them became estranged. Johnny seems closed and doesn’t talk much about his thoughts, except when he speaks in his audio diary.
Johnny, who has not seen his nephew for years, becomes his primary guardian for those few days, which will be extended due to circumstances. He has no children and does not act like someone who wants them, but he will have to quickly learn to be a parent. The boy is problematic for cooperation, especially in a situation when he faces confusion and uncertainty, so he alternately makes Johnny’s obligations beautiful and impossible. However, it is hard to shake off the impression that we have seen all these messages and topics in many other films about parenting (the most recent example is Saint Frances).
The plot is straightforward and quite simple as we follow Johnny and Jesse as they play, joke and quarrel as they build their relationship. The biggest plus of the film is the obvious fact that the author has a deep understanding and endless sympathy for the problems and contradictions of parenthood. Some moments are genuinely touching, some are comical, while others are infinitely sincere, like the ones when Viv explains how much she hates herself for being annoyed and frustrated at her son.
The author and the actors conducted real interviews with the children, and wonderful, optimistic wisdom can be heard in what the children discover, even when difficult or worrying circumstances are mentioned. The screenplay contains excerpts from a variety of literature, most often essays and children’s books that Johnny occasionally reads to himself or Jesse. Thanks to Phoenix’s relaxed, natural performance, we have a great understanding for Johnny as he was, but also a good basis for placing hope in Johnny who he will become.
C’mon C’mon is a sympathetic and compassionate art drama that has a touching story of parenthood and the relationship between an adult and a child – another film in which Joaquin Phoenix presents raw and authentic emotions that we as viewers can easily connect with. Final rating: 7/10
C’mon C’mon movie cast and characters
- Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny
- Gaby Hoffmann as Viv
- Woody Norman as Jesse
- Scoot McNairy as Paul
- Molly Webster as Roxanne
- Jaboukie Young-White as Fern
- Deborah Strang as Carol
- Sunni Patterson as Sunni