As Johnny, Joaquin Phoenix is a functioning mess. Interviewing kids in Detroit about their bright-eyed futures, Johnny is later called upon to look after his sister Vivian’s 9-year-old son, Jesse. However, in what starts out as being just a few days spirals, where Johnny’s care for Jesse becomes something much deeper.
... C'mon C'mon is a gem of a film that will sweep you away on a tide of black and white intimacy.
C’mon C’mon is a gem of a film that will sweep you away on a tide of black and white intimacy. With its chiming piano score hinting at a tenderness that wrestles to be heard, director Mike Mills’s movie is much more than an enquiry being made between the generations.
At its centre is Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny. Dishevelled yet earnest, it’s not that Johnny is a deliberately distant uncle or doesn’t want to see Jesse. It’s just that he doesn’t want to break the seal on a hurt that has been band-aided for an as-yet-unspecified date. However, Woody Norman’s precocious Jesse isn’t running at a similar pace to him. Growing up surrounded by adults, he’s clearly damaged by his parent’s separation and is trying to find the words to articulate his feelings. Yet similarly burdened by an adorable nature, he’s also the key to a future that Johnny never thought possible – and it has to be said actor Woody Norman smashes it, as anyone who saw Bruno can testify to.
For a story about a family that is broken at the root, Jesse could easily become a discarded branch, swept away in the wreckage of his father’s ongoing mental illness. Yet, by introducing Jesse to Johnny’s world of sound recording, this becomes the bridge upon which they can build a friendship together. As a result, you really do believe in their tenderness as you do Johnnny’s over-wrought sister as played by Gaby Hoffmann and Jesse’s distracted father as played by Scoot McNairy.
By its the end, if anything, C’mon C’mon is all about the pressure to cope with ongoing tragedy by putting on a veneer on things so others don’t have to care. Admittedly it can occasionally come across as a bit overly-secure where everyone has solid jobs etc. and Jesse can often feel like an adult wrapped in a child’s body. That said, much Like Peter Bogdanovich’s 1973 classic Paper Moon which is another excellent love story forced out of familial necessity, this is one fantastic mismatch that will stay with you for a long time.
, Mike Mills (dir)