By Ethan Lauren
“C’mon C’mon” is a character-driven wonder, touching on themes of both vulnerability and the importance of communication. Characters are their own antagonists, and they bring on most of their own problems—much like reality.
Produced by A24, and directed by Mike Mills, “C’mon C’mon” is genuine, honest, moving, and ultimately one of the best films of this year.
Johnny, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is a closed-off reporter interviewing children across the United States on how the youth of today see the future. Despite being in the middle of the project, he volunteers to watch his nephew when his sister leaves to tend to her estranged husband’s failing mental health.
Being only nine years old, Jesse, played by Woody Norman, is eccentric, discussing conspiracy theories and roleplaying as if he was an orphan. As his mother, Viv, played by Gaby Hoffmann, is kept away longer than originally expected, Johnny must take his nephew with him as he tours the country for his job.
Together, Johnny and Jesse connect with one another and while both have trouble expressing their emotions to one another, they are placed in situations where they’re forced to talk about their feelings, discussing difficult subjects like loneliness and heartbreak.
Where the film truly shines is how it highlights the frustrations of parenthood. Jesse loves asking questions, particularly ones that aren’t always easy to talk about. Many have been in the same situation as the characters, where you want to satisfy a child’s curiosity, but you have your own thoughts and needs to think about. Often a difficult balance, the film consistently shows that people make mistakes in balancing their own wants alongside their loved ones. “C’mon C’mon” showcases the impact that these interactions can have on us, from introspecting to accepting that being vulnerable is not wrong.
Phoenix, pepper-haired and out of shape, is a treat when it comes to watching his character interact with Jesse. There are many moments in “C’mon C’mon” that resonate with anybody who has dealt with children; the sense of panic when you lose sight of them or when you try to remain calm when they’re mimicking, belittling, and testing your boundaries just because they can. All or any of these examples raise the blood pressure, but something about Jesse’s puppy-dog eyes and shaggy hair keeps you from staying mad at that impish, little fellow.
“C’mon C’mon” is filmed in black and white, leaving no room for distractions. The camera work is slow, with many shots holding on the actors, giving the scene room to breathe and letting you think about the questions that the film proposes. Highlights from the interviews that Johnny records are shown throughout the narrative, accenting the themes and giving another layer to the subject of being able to look within and answer questions that might be ones you have never considered.
Overall, “C’mon C’mon” is at its heart a moving story of accepting the people in our lives and learning to be together, no matter how hard it might seem to be open with another.