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C’MON C’MON gets 7/10 As I make my way


Directed by Mike Mills

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Gaby Hoffmann, Woody Norman

7/10

Radio journalist Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) suddenly finds himself caring for his young nephew (Woody Norman) when his sister (Gaby Hoffmann) needs to help her estranged husband deal with a bipolar episode. Nine year old Jesse displays a certain quirkiness, such as engaging in the fantasy that he’s an orphan, and Johnny struggles with parenting as he crosses America interviewing children for his current project. As Johnny reaches out to his sister Viv for advice, it begins to heal the family rifts triggered by their mother’s death.

At its core C’mon C’mon is an intergenerational look at parenting, both from the challenges of raising the current generation, but also the effect that a certain style of parenting had on the previous generation. Here (both through Johnny’s interactions with Jesse and his radio interviews) children display an increased emotional IQ, an understanding of mental health issues, and an awareness of the social and political forces that shape their lives. It presents a challenge, as the often emotionally closed Johnny recognises that an openness in communication is key to encouraging that understanding in a child. Through the course of the film, that not only prompts a deepening in the bond between Johnny and Jesse, but a greater empathy towards his sister, as he reflects on the family dynamics of his own childhood.

This is driven by fantastic chemistry between Phoenix and Norman. Both performances have a relaxed and naturalistic flow to them, which is extraordinary when Norman can keep up with someone of the ability of Phoenix. Both draw the eye and manage to capture audience attention in this gently-paced piece, and director Mike Mills (20th Century Women) allows the characters time to breathe, and to be fleshed out into believable individuals.

A beautifully empathetic family drama that is a call to understanding between parents and children, C’mon C’mon is gentle cinema with a strong message.

DAVID O’CONNELL

 

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