‘C’mon C’mon’ MOVIE REVIEW: Joaquin Phoenix Looks Fantastic in Heartfelt Image of Mike Mills
go! Go on is just the fourth feature film in 17 years from acclaimed writer-director Mike Mills. following thumb sucker (2005), Beginners (2010), and 20th century women (2016), the film directed by Joaquin Phoenix go! Go on marks yet another insightful and very human image for the filmmaker, here exploring a range of themes, from the lasting effects of family dynamics, to the importance of intergenerational communication, to mental illness.
More fantastic work from Phoenix, who delivers a seemingly effortless performance as radio reporter Johnny. After his estranged sister, Viv (Gabby Hoffman), is forced out of town to care for her bipolar husband (Scoot McNairy), Johnny finds himself tasked with caring for his energetic, demanding, and patient nephew. . nine-year-old test, Jesse (Woody Norman). When work calls for him, Johnny gets Viv’s permission to take Jesse with him for a stint in New York City, unaware of the fulfilling yet trying time that awaits them both.
go! Go onJohnny’s beautiful thematic backdrop is provided with Johnny’s current project: traveling the country and interviewing young people about their concerns and dreams, their life and future, and the state of the world. It’s an almost documentary aspect of the film, like Phoenix and co. conduct genuine interviews with everyday teenagers and children that fit the film perfectly not only in a narrative sense – seeing as that’s his job – but also as sweet and sometimes heartbreaking talking points. Mills not only wants to examine the relationship between parents and children, but between generations in general. We can learn from young people, but will we really pay attention to them to do so?
Mills’ screenplay is a layered work, modestly delivered. You can take the small-scale events on screen for what they are: conversations between adults and children that present interesting points about life and the inconveniences that can arise when trying to deal with a demanding child. But Mills’ script benefits greatly from immersion and seeking understanding; it can also be about the human condition – and you can find a few things that strike a chord with you personally, thinking back to your parents during your own childhood, or perhaps with your experience as a parent/guardian.
Mills and cinematographer Robbie Ryan (The favourite, Marriage story) tell the story using stunning black and white cinematography. The scenic landscape/cityscape shots contrast nicely with the intimacy of the character’s moments – functioning as visual reminders of the collective experience that is life. The older we get, the more differences we find, but hey, we’re still on that rock together.
As mentioned, Phoenix delivers another solid performance here, navigating beautifully through the understandable frustrations that arise with Jesse, while convincing of his concern for the child and his desire to do his best. Young Woody Norman, alongside Phoenix, tackles and delivers a complex character with Jesse, filled with interesting quirks, surprising levels of maturity, and irritating tendencies. At the end of the day (and it’s something Johnny and the audience need to remember from time to time), Jesse is still a child – a child in need of affection, care and understanding, although perhaps- be not in the usual way one might imagine. Hoffman is also extremely natural and likeable as Viv, while McNairy provides small but heartbreaking moments as Jesse’s bipolar father, Paul.
go! Go on does not aim to strongly tug at those heartstrings, but Mills’ measured pacing and carefully crafted script may very well give a lump in your throat as the kids’ interviews unfold during the end credits. Among others, go! Go on is a gentle reminder to remember what it was like to be a child – the hopes, the dreams, the frustrations, the way we looked at the world and adults – and to make sure the next generation never forgets nor as you get older.
“C’mon C’mon” opened in Australian cinemas on February 17, 2022 and in US cinemas on November 19, 2021.
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