Mike Mills explores a wide range of themes in his latest feature all through a beautiful monochromatic lense, C’mon C’mon. From broader societal issues, and the future, to familial relationships, childhood, and parenthood, in turn producing a quietly contemplative movie that acts as the sweetest tonic to an uncertain and, often times, horrible year.
Written by Alex Gilston
C’mon C’mon finds us with radio documentarian Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) who has been contacted by his estranged sister Viv (Gabby Hoffman). She asks him to look after Jesse (Woody Norman), his nephew, as she needs to go and look after Jesse’s father, with whom she has separated from, who is suffering from Bipolar disorder. When Johnny gets a call from his producer asking him to return to New York to continue making his documentary he decides to take Jesse away from the sand soaked suburbia of LA to help him. The plot is set up ever so simply and it pursues that simplicity throughout its two hour runtime. It’s intricacies however come from the dialogue and the on point performances from co-leads Joaquin Phoenix and Woody Norman. C’mon C’mon is at its level best when these two are in some way interacting. Whether it be a poignant night time conversation in bed, or a dialogouless walk down the beach or a busy sidewalk.
Joaquin Phoenix and Woody Norman are so convincingly real within their characters that at times the film feels like a documentary, and you in the audience are but a fly on the wall, watching their relationship grow like a well watered plant into unlimited shades of nuance. Their clear chemistry together on screen helps to wholeheartedly sell it and by the end you’ll believe in nothing else. Mike Mill’s has found a diamond of the future in Woody Norman. It is one thing to perform alongside one of the generation's most accomplished actors but to transcend that and begin to act rings around him is a whole other achievement. There is seldom a scene without him in C’mon C’mon, and when he is on screen you can’t help but be transfixed by his ability to command the scene as his own.
C’mon C’mon explores the ups and downs of parenthood with care and subtlety, whether you have more experience like Viv or are inexperienced and unprepared like Johnny. The film is filled with unfiltered moments of conversation between adult and child. After only being with Johnny for a couple of days Jesse inexplicably asks Johnny why he hasn't had any children of his own yet. All of their interactions hold the weight of this question, just in a plethora of ways. In turn it is never condescending and it treats not having all the answers with an unhindered pride. The most emotional moment of C’mon C’mon comes in it’s closing moments when Johnny and Jesse are on opposite coasts of America. The existential question of remembering our childhood and if we don’t whether or not it will be remembered through our parents. Just the mere idea of Jesse forgetting the brilliant times he’d shared with Johnny throughout the film are enough to reduce you to tears.
In a world full of over complicated IP mining, sequels, reboots, and serialised movies, it’s absolutely integral to sit back, relax and let C’mon C’mon, which on paper is the chillest film of the year, wash over you. It may ask the difficult questions, but it also helps you process them whilst also being able to entertain you enough to keep you interested. Mike Mills has struck gold on every aspect of this, and I for one hope to see C’mon C’mon in the conversation as much as possible during awards season.