C’mon C’mon – movie review

Writer and director Mike Mills (20th Century Women) makes superb, insightful films that tap into the human condition … and now here is another. C’mon C’mon is a remarkable, sensitive work about tapping into your feelings.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Johnny, who – along with a few colleagues – is making a radio documentary. They are travelling between US cities recording the views of children about the future. Johnny and his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffmann) fell out a year ago, after the death of their mother. From a lonely hotel room in Detroit, Johnny picks up the phone and calls Viv in Los Angeles, and she’s pleased to hear from him. She’s now dealing with her husband Paul (Scoot McNairy), who’s struggling psychologically.

The pair have a highly intelligent, inquisitive and boisterous nine-year-old son, Jesse (Woody Norman). With Paul in another city and worsening, Viv asks Johnny to stay with Jesse while she tries to help her husband. Johnny has no idea what he’s signed up for. Jesse is creative and quirky, and can talk the leg off a chair. He continually challenges Johnny with his incisiveness, often catching him out.

Jesse is quite taken by Johnny’s gun microphone, headphones and recording equipment, which the youngster starts using. With Viv still helping out Paul, work sees Johnny travel to New York … and then New Orleans … with Jesse in tow. Although they have fun together, looking after, and out for, Jesse is hardly straightforward. Along the way, there is frustration, anger and tears … on both sides.

Shot in evocative black and white, with the thoughts of children peppered liberally throughout, C’mon C’mon is deeply touching. Relatable literary references are also thrown into the mix for good measure. I was totally absorbed. I didn’t want to miss a word or a frame. The cinematography by Robbie Ryan (Sorry We Missed You) is breathtaking. He makes great use of light and shade as well as constructing illuminating aerials.

The performances are wonderfully natural and luminous. Massively talented Phoenix and Hoffman are extraordinarily expressive, while Norman is a revelation.  Each is brilliant in their own right. I couldn’t praise them more highly.

I walked away from C’mon C’mon better off for having seen it. Incidentally, the title is drawn from words uttered by Jesse late in the piece.

Alex First

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