“C’mon C’mon” is remarkable. It’s shot perfectly in black and white giving it a more intimate and personal feeling. It’s sweet and loving, as is the leading relationship within the main storyline.
I say ‘main storyline’ because, in a way, this is two films in one. In a resourceful manner, the writer/director, Mike Mills (Beginners, 20th Century Women), has held a mirror up to our faces while showing us the future of parenting. One can only hope the world will be filled with little Jesse’s to guide us.
Johnny (Phoenix) is an artist and radio personality living in New York City. He’s famous for the interviews he gives. At the beginning of the film, his work has taken him to Detroit where he’s conversing with some children for a new series. He’s asking them rather deep questions for their ages, but getting unbelievably astute, well thought out, caring answers in return. He interrogates them on their hopes and how they feel about their lives and the future. Responses range from their feelings on loneliness, pollution, the earth dying, and people hiding who they truly are. One child says that today, as opposed to the past, you may be able to speak things easier, but not easily. A comment on social media, no doubt. This was the child of an immigrant.
Johnny is doing this to ‘traffic in hope.’ He wants to allow the subject a chance to see themselves as worthy of being heard. These moments happen every now and again but are not part of the critical plot point. That goes to his nine-year-old nephew, Jesse.
Jesse is played by Woody Norman. From watching this performance alone, as Joaquin Phoenix and Gaby Hoffmann did before him, he’ll go on to do great things. He’s sensational. It’s impossible that such a young person is already this good. But there’s high praise for Phoenix, as well, who might have a statue coming his way soon. As genuine as their performances were, maybe they’ll share the stage.
Here, Phoenix is playing a loving uncle, willing to take on the parenting duties of his sister Viv (Hoffmann), who he hasn’t seen much of since their mother passed away one year previous. The film gets into this some but quickly moves on. As it turns out, Viv desperately needs to help Jesse’s mentally unstable father, Paul (Scoot McNairy).
After meeting the curious and beguiling whirlwind, Johnny decides to take Jesse back with him to New York to allow Viv the time with Paul she needs. It isn’t long before Johnny discovers that parenting takes more out of a person than he realized.
Johnny is fascinated by Jesse. They do everything together and their relationship blossoms. Though half the time the kid is driving him crazy, Johnny’s getting as much of an education from the child as he’s hoping he’s giving to him.
Jesse likes to play as though he’s an orphan, something Johnny doesn’t understand. He asks the bright and imaginative Jesse to be normal. Jesse then asks him something Johnny wasn’t expecting, “What’s normal?” Outside of Jesse doing as Johnny wants, Johnny doesn’t have an answer for the prolific little question. He texts or calls his sister about Jesse all the time and learns that Jesse is a handful for her, too, even in the best of times. The biggest problem with Jesse is that he has a high IQ but not the experience to help guide him along. Johnny to the rescue?
There’s so much to unwrap in this movie. There’s a lot of devotion, growing and love, which will not be lost on the audience. It’s written and captured very well, in gorgeous locations, with an intimate cast who believes in the project. When Johnny reads to Jesse from the book “Star Child,” it’s such a memorable scene that they included some of the lines in the official trailer. Watching it play out onscreen was beautiful and it’ll work to get anyone to the theater to see this, where I suggest you catch it when it comes out. Be prepared for the emotional ending because as Johnny recognizes he wouldn’t make the best of fathers; Jesse gets the picture that he still has a lot of growing up to do. As much of a man young Jesse wants to be, he’s still a little boy who needs his mom, a message you’ll connect to right away as Mills has intended for you.
Writer/Director: Mike Mills
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Gaby Hoffmann, Woody Norman, Scoot McNairy
Run Time: 1h 48m