C’mon C’mon is an introspective movie well worth watching



Joaquin Phoenix and Woody Norman give wonderfully believable performances in Mike Mill’s new movie C’mon C’mon.

Elliott Austin, Staff Writer

“You will grow up, travel, and work. Over the years, you will try to make sense of that happy, sad, full, always-shifting life you’re in.”

C’mon C’mon is a reflective, meditative, and ultimately beautiful film about parenthood and childhood wisdom. Johnny (played by the always amazing Joaquin Phoenix) is an audio journalist who travels to cities in America asking kids questions about their communities and the future. One night he calls his somewhat-estranged sister, Viv (Gaby Hoffman) and learns that she has to go to northern California to help her husband (Scoot McNairy) who’s in the midst of a bipolar episode. Johnny leaves for Los Angeles to take care of her eccentric nine year old son Jesse (Woody Norman).

Written and directed by Mike Mills, this latest project follows in the footsteps of his last two pictures, 20th Century Women and Beginners, imbued with the same understanding of compassion and human interaction. There are many things this movie does that in the hands of most other writer/directors would come across as cheesy or melodramatic, but here they are simply beautiful. Scenes of cityscapes or houses with narration overtop work to the strength of the movie rather than it’s detriment.

Mills understands that adults have something to learn from the way children see the world, and portrays that wide eyed wonder through Jesse, who is performed excellently by Woody Norman. Johnny is used to asking the questions, but Jesse turns the tables and starts Johnny down a path of self recognition. Jesse is strong-willed and expressive, the perfect contrast to Phoenix’s subdued portrayal of Johnny. Throughout the film, Mills shows a loving perception of how hard it can be to parent, especially to be a mother, and doesn’t shy away from the tough aspects of parenting. Raising a kid is demanding and this movie perfectly illustrates that, giving different perspectives most people can relate to, whether that be through Johnny, Jesse, his mom Viv, or even his dad Paul. Johnny and the audience learn to value the world in a different way, and all the happiness and hardship that comes with parenting.

The movie draws you in with its gorgeously shot black and white cinematography, illustrating primarily the cities of Los Angeles and New York, with visits to Detroit and New Orleans. Combined with an excellent score by Bryce and Aaron Dessner, C’mon C’mon is a surprising but subtle visual and audio delight. This fits with the plot perfectly and creates an atmosphere to match. 

C’mon C’mon is primarily quiet and contemplative, but it doesn’t need bombast to catch your attention. It has that sense of authenticity that comes from knowledge. It’s about listening and it’s about understanding.

C’mon C’mon is now showing at the Landmark Lagoon in Uptown, ShowPlace ICON West End, St. Anthony Main Theatre, and AMC Southdale 16 in Edina.