By Charles Kirkland Jr.
A journalist faces off with his nephew as he is tasked with the job of being a long-term babysitter in the latest Mike Mills film, C’mon, C‘mon.
To help his sister who has to take care of her bi-polar husband, radio journalist Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) volunteers to travel from New York to California to take care of his nephew, Jesse (Woody Norman). When things take a turn for the worse, Johnny tries to extend his stay but eventually has to get back to work. He decides it would be best for everyone if he takes his precocious little friend with him across the county. What comes next is a challenge that Johnny never expects.
Written and directed by Mike Mills (Beginners, 20th Century Women), C’mon, C’mon stars Phoenix and Norman primarily with Gaby Hoffman and Scoot McNairy threw in for back-up.
Mills, known for movies that are tender and explorative of the human condition, does not change course in this film. Johnny’s latest assignment, interviewing children about their thoughts and concerns for the future, serves as a tone-setter for the entire film. The film is entirely dialogue-driven as Johnny attempts to connect with his intellectually and emotionally astute nephew. This kind of conversational style is actually a little different device for Mills as he typically utilizes a third-person narrator to move his stories. However, he never fails to compose a tender and emotional piece of work with this film.
Shot entirely in black and white, Mills again veers slightly off the path of the successes that he has previously had. It is an intelligent choice for the film. While it accents the landscapes and sets wonderfully, aesthetically, black and white photography creates a world where the nuances in performances are heightened because all other distractions are stripped away. It forces viewers to lock in on the actors and how they communicate to each other, verbally and non-verbally.
Phoenix and Norman are delightful in their interactions with each other. At times each of them alternates as the more mature person in their discussions of life, love, and future. Neither of them yields or defers to the other but they negotiate themselves to a point with each where both of them grow. Phoenix may have won an award for the complex character he played in Joker but he delivers a superior performance here working in the subtlety of this role where he has to navigate conversations with a child that may be his intellectual equal. Woody Norman is a real treat in this film playing a young boy that is wise beyond his years but yet still naïve to the ways and function of the world.
Rated R for language, C’mon, C’mon is an unexpected tasty treat. It is a very intelligent movie that does not let reason and sensibility override emotion and heart. While off to a rocky start at the beginning, in the end, everyone wants the relationship that has been cultivated between them.
C’mon C’mon is in theaters on November 19.