Director: Mike Mills
Writer: Mike Mills
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Gaby Hoffmann, Scoot McNairy, Molly Webster, Jaboukie Young-White, and Woody Norman
Mike Mills makes a feature film around every 5 years, with many shorts in between. His 2010 film Beginners is one of the best films of recent years. C’mon C’mon is a triumph and celebration of life, death and everything in between. It’s raw and emotional and really touches you with it’s simple and heartfelt story.
It’s been a year since Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) and Viv (Gabby Hoffmann) have spoken, which was when their mother died after suffering from dementia. Viv is having to travel to look after her estranged husband, Paul (Scoot McNairy), and Johnny offers to look after her son, Jesse (Woody Norman). The situation takes longer than Viv originally thought, meaning Jesse has to travel to New York with his uncle so he can continue working, with the bond between the growing.
C’mon C’mon is a really heartfelt, sweet and emotional story about a man learning to connect with his nephew. Johnny is thrown into a situation and feels very disorientated, similarly to how writer and director Mike Mills felt when he had his first child back in 2014. He’s doesn’t know how to really act around his nephew, and has to quickly develop a bond with him. The film is really intimate, being shot completely in black and white and showing the small moments in life from bath time to buying a toothbrush.
At the same time the small and intimate is contrasted with the travelling that Johnny does for work as a radio journalist. He’s travelling to different cities, with Jesse close behind, interviewing children about the future and their worries and dreams. It’s the grandness of the world and life with the mundane to create something that’s emotional and raw. Their relationship isn’t always perfect. Jesse is a 9-year-old who knows that his father is really struggling but doesn’t quite understand why. He acts out and Johnny doesn’t always know the best way to deal with it. There’s also the honesty and innocence of childhood as Jesse asks Johnny why he doesn’t speak to his sister (Jesse’s mum) very often, or why he’s alone. It forces Johnny to look inwards at the questions he doesn’t really want to face.
There’s also Viv, who spends most of the film looking after her husband Paul, trying to get him checked into a hospital to get the help he really needs. The film is about the struggles that good people go through, and how we’re all just trying to survive. It’s a very relatable film and there’s more than one extremely emotional moment that connects in a powerful way.
As you’d expect Joaquin Phoenix gives an excellent performance. He’s incredibly moving and you really feel that there is a connection between his character and his nephew. Woody Norman gives an incredible performance, the chemistry between him and Phoenix is palpable and it really gets you. Equally great is Gabby Hoffman, who spends most of the film on the other side of the phone to Phoenix. Every time she’s on screen you feel the struggle she’s going through to hold everything together. The three of them are simply excellent.
C’mon C’mon is life affirming, powerfully raw and moving. The performances are perfect and it’s something that will stay with you for a very long time afterwards. Mike Mills has created another masterpiece.
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