C’MON C’MON – Review by Susan Granger
Writer/director Mike Mills’ turbulent new family melodrama delves into the trials and tribulations of parenthood, encompassing its inherent joys and overwhelming responsibilities, including choosing between self-interest and caring for a child.
Living in a small Chinatown apartment, Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) is a New York radio journalist heading a small team of interviewers who travel around the country asking young people probing questions about their aspirations, what they think of the world around them, their uncertainties and what needs to change.
When his estranged sister Viv (Gaby Hoffman) must cope with a mental health crisis involving her bipolar husband (Scoot McNairy), Johnny flies to Los Angeles to care for Jesse (Woody Norman), her imaginative, precociously perceptive nine-year-old son.
Having absorbed Viv’s self-help exercises and vocabulary, vulnerable Jesse has been taught to express his feelings openly, leading to insightful cross-generational communication.
The bittersweet plot revolves around the transformation that happens when Johnny, who’s single and has no children, steps into the avuncular role.
Inspired by his own parenting experiences with filmmaker Miranda July (Kajillionaire), Mike Mills shot the script in sequence, working with Irish cinematographer Robbie Ryan to film in luminous black-and-white, tracing how Johnny and Jesse bond – with music by Bryce and Aaron Dessner of The National.
Previously in Beginners, Mills explored his poignant relationship with his father who came out late in life, and in 20th Century Women he recalled his mother and sister who raised him.
Bearded and considerably heavier than he was as the Oscar-winning Joker, Joaquin Phoenix delivers a quiet, gently thoughtful, emotionally satisfying performance, while British newcomer Woody Norman masters an authentic American accent.
FYI: One of the young people interviewed is Devante “D-Man” Bryant, a nine year-old who was later killed in a shooting and to whom the film is dedicated.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, C’mon C’mon is a sensitive, stylistic, soft-spoken 7, streaming on Prime Video.