30 Mar Review: C’mon C’mon
Not often do we see a film targeted at adults that genuinely values the perspectives and lives of children, but that is exactly what Mike Mills’ spectacular C’mon C’mon does. Joaquin Phoenix leads this film as Johnny, a soft-spoken documentary maker travelling the US, asking young people a broad question: “What do you think the future is going to be like?”.
Shot on location, completely in black and white, this film jumps from Detroit to Los Angeles to New York and lastly, to New Orleans. This film allows you to sink your teeth into each city and the personalities of the kids Johnny interviews there. As he puts it, he enters and exits the lives that his subjects live, leaving behind their situations as he builds upon his own.
But Johnny’s situation quickly changes when his estranged sister Viv (Gaby Hoffman) needs him to look after her son Jesse (Woody Norman) as she tries to take care of her husband Paul (Scoot McNairy), who’s dealing with mental illness. Suddenly, Johnny finds himself intertwined in Jesse’s young life, which is every bit as complex as the lives of his subjects and his own.
While some may initially roll their eyes at the thematic obviousness of Mills’ premise, the film strays away from the irony of a child imposing on an adult’s work. The writer-director’s approach feels completely genuine and honest. Although the film focuses on Johnny and Jesse’s rich and truly human relationship, C’mon C’mon quietly deals with the issues of the world. This is evident in the stunning cinematography by Robbie Ryan, which takes time to show us the world that the characters inhabit while also isolating them within it.
C’mon C’mon feels especially directed at those old enough to listen to and reflect on what Jesse and the other children say throughout the film from a place of complacency. The film does a beautiful job of capturing the raw, unfiltered perspective of America’s youth. Despite this, viewers are clearly there to witness how this affects middle-aged Johnny, who works with children every day but doesn’t have any himself. Even if he values his work and the voices of his subjects, his approach is more transactional than transformational. This is where a temperamental 9-year-old acts as an unpredictable open door into Johnny’s existence.
For the film to work, Phoenix and Norman’s chemistry needed to be spot on, and it is. Coming hot off the heels of his Oscar win for Joker, Joaquin Phoenix is completely against type as a normal, warm, tender figure. Woody Norman gives a groundbreaking performance for a child actor, being both chaotic and charming. We see the fear in their eyes as they try to navigate the uncharted waters of a very adult world. However, we ultimately see joy work its way in as they both get acclimated to their unusual situation.
Mike Mills has created a beautiful work of art that has an incredible warmth to it. This film feels like it’s giving you a big hug. This is helped by the mesmerising score by Bryce and Aaron Dessner, featuring slow chord progressions which make you melt in your seat. Combined, this creates a wonderful film that will really make you reflect on your own life and the state of the very complex world we live in.
Matt Ford – Year 12