REVIEW: ‘C’mon C’mon’ is moving, heartfelt cinema

Can we pretend Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar was for this movie instead of “Joker?”

Phoenix stars in “C’mon, C’mon,” the new film from writer/director Mike Mills. In the film, Phoenix plays Johnny, a podcaster whose show centers on opinions of the youth. Johnny is often traveling across the country because of his job to interview students about their outlook on the world.

His career is interrupted, though, when his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffmann) asks for help. Viv is needing to take care of her husband, who’s going through a difficult time with mental health. As a result, she needs Johnny to help look after her son, Jesse (Woody Norman).

“C’mon, C’mon is a film with a ton of heart. While the story at play is a rather simple one, with two family members on an extended trip, it’s rich with feeling and love.

The pure, honest portrayal of an uncle trying to relate to his nephew who he hasn’t seen for some time is quite charming to watch. Seeing Johnny show Jesse around New York City or teach him about sound equipment simply hooks an audience in.

Of course it’s not simply a delightful road movie. While it’s heartwarming to see Johnny and Jesse spend time together, the movie doesn’t let the audience forget that there’s a reason Jesse has to be away and that Johnny had a falling out with his sister.

What really makes the drama work is how well Mills captures the perspective from Jesse. “C’mon” captures how children act better than a lot of movies out there.

Courtesy A24.

Kids know when something’s wrong, and it’s clear that Jesse realizes there is an issue back at home. As a result, there are times where he’s just trying to enjoy the experience of a new city, but is also struggling with being away from home. It adds a layer of authenticity which really makes the drama effective.

What holds “C’mon C’mon” back is how it begins to feel repetitive after a while. The film is just under two hours and it starts to spin its wheels at some points.

It’s also noticeable that the movie adds to its runtime by cutting away to interviews Johnny has done during his career. While hearing from other students through these scenes can be interesting, they don’t fully fit in with the movie, and at times feel out of place.

The acting does a lot in service of the movie, though. Phoenix is absolutely phenomenal on screen, giving undoubtedly one of the best performances of his career. His performance so thoroughly captures the human condition in a convincing way, which is perfect for this type of drama.

Also deserving credit was Robbie Ryan, the film’s cinematographer. The black and white look adds a stylish aesthetic. The film looks beautiful and it’s shot in a way that portrays the closeness of family.

Mills gives audiences a fine film with “C’mon C’mon.” The acting is on point, the film looks wonderful and the film captures the youth perspective on the world quite well. 4 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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