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go! Go on – now on VOD – is the new drama from Mike Mills, who writes and directs a charming, thoughtful, soulful, insightful and hopeful film every five or six years. Joaquin Phoenix is ​​starring, his first performance since winning an Oscar for playing the Joker, and if you want the creepiest flip side of that lopsided role, it’s here in go! Go on. He’s playing half a quirky boyfriend movie alongside young Woody Norman, an uncle and nephew forced together by something in the neighborhood of fate – and while the older one is asked to take care of the younger, perhaps the reverse is also true.

The essential: Detroit. It’s Johnny (Phoenix) ‘s final stop, traveling the country talking to teens about the future. You know, if the planet will be a better place or a worse place, things like that. He calls his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffmann), who lives in Los Angeles. A year has passed since their mother died, which is also a long time since they have not seen each other, or even really spoken. We have flashback glimpses of their mother in bed, suffering from dementia; Johnny and Viv have a shouting argument, and if it’s just some sort of word, the scene between them might authenticate it.

Johnny asks about his nephew. Jesse (Norman) is nine years old now, and in his mother’s absolutely unconditional love words, he’s so odd he’s become his own separate human being. And guess what, Viv needs someone to watch the kid for a while, because her dad is in Oakland, and not doing very well, and needs help, and we’ve got more glimpses. of Paul (Scoot McNairy) setting off through what, from a distance, appears to be a mental health crisis. So Johnny arrives and Viv goes out, and the uncle learns that the nephew is loud on Saturdays, even early in the morning, and likes to pretend to be an orphan while pretending that the adult in the room has children who are all dead. – you know, the usual impenetrability of a nine year old.

Meanwhile, Johnny dictates part of his life in his recorder, like an audio diary, and it can be difficult for us to discern where that differs from his work. Jesse shows interest in recording equipment, but prefers to wear headphones and hold the mic, and that’s how we learn Johnny is on his own after the breakdown of a long-standing relationship – he doesn’t. had little to say about her ending – and has no children. The situation with Paul grows longer, as it often does, and everyone is stuck: Viv has to stay in Oakland, Johnny has to go to New York to work (he lives there too), Jesse has to be somewhere somebody can give him a bath and a dinner because he’s only nine years old. He ends up following Johnny, who does his best to get the kid to eat spaghetti instead of ice cream, and controls screen time and controls his emotions when he gets lost in the drugstore and freaks Johnny off. and it was just a joke and you should see the look on Johnny’s face right now. Johnny takes out the microphone: “We’re back. And I was tired. So tired. But he wasn’t.

Photo: Everett Collection

What movies will this remind you of? : Mills finds a Kramer vs. Kramer ambiance in the single-dadding happening here, and photographs the story in luscious black and white, as in Manhattan.

Performances to watch: Pound for pound, Phoenix is ​​one of the best players in the game, and in a career that has been defined by his intensity (The master, Walk the line, You ain’t never really been there), go! Go on might be his sweetest job, at least since Her, and most coasting, at least since Inherent vice. His performance here is catalyzed by Norman’s precocity, making Johnny’s character a tender, weary, amazed, exasperated, and loving man.

Memorable dialogue: Viv shares the Golden Ball secret of parenting: “You just have to keep doing it.”

Gender and skin: Nothing. Do not even think about it. This kid is ALWAYS in the room.

Our opinion : Mills used his personal life to inspire his best work – his father, who turned gay at 75, inspired Beginners, and the bewildering complexities of Annette Bening’s character in 20th century women finds root in his relationship with his mother. Having seen go! Go on, it’s no surprise to learn that he’s the father of a nine-year-old boy (with filmmaker Miranda July from Kajillionaire glory), so that Mills could change his perspective from parent to parent, so that he could transform the ground and find new wonders and curiosity for the parent-child dynamic.

Through Johnny’s setbacks, Mills describes parenthood as an act of sheer determination, effort, and intention, even if it sometimes requires well-honed skills of great precision and specificity. Knowing when to apply first or last is the question, and the towering bear Johnny struggles with, an act Phoenix captures with great heart and humility: Johnny has to apply the broad strokes and just be there in order to maintain the good. general of the child. -to be. But he also has to read a script he found on the internet in order to properly address the emotions of a nine-year-old’s still-developing brain – and of course Jesse gives the poor guy shit for doing it. .

While Norman is pleasing to the eye, his precocity can be a problem for some viewers, and Mills tends to elevate the story’s emotional bittersweet drama to a level of literary preciousness, a kind of fabricated depth in which every moment , however small, radiates importance. But the child is not a terror or a handful or some other worn-out catch-all that you could use to describe a child testing your mind – he is truly a normal child discovering himself and the world without consciousness. of itself, which is very the burden of any adult is this to keep it clean and fed and sheltered and entertained and clean and fed again.

Mills forgoes traditional plot constructions, simply bracketing a series of events with Jesse’s separation and reunion with Viv, which in itself is a hymn to the singular relationship between mother and child. He underestimates dramatic developments, as they are the type that seem small now but will be much larger with the passage of time. He also shoots the film in luscious black and white, and returns time and again to Johnny’s interviews with young people, mostly teenagers, who recognize the complexities of the world, but still express hope and optimism. Despite its faults and the trials it imposes on us and will always impose on us, the world is a beautiful place.

Our call: Stream it. go! Go on is a beautiful film, beautifully shot, acted out and written.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work on johnserbaatlarge.com.


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