Film Review – C’mon C’mon (2021)

The last few years have changed the face of cinema forever more: simple rules these days are unless you’re Marvel, Disney or any sort of IP you are already facing an even steeper hill to be noticed than ever before. In fact, the mid-level budget films that were a consistent staple from the 90s have all but disappeared to streaming whilst the indie scene, even more so in a post-Covid world that is a struggle for almost everyone, has had the rug pulled almost completely from underneath it.

Such roadblocks might explain the severe lack of promotion across both sides of the pond (and beyond) for Mike Mills‘ masterful C’mon C’mon, a film so rich with emotion, nuance, love and laughter, that it needs as much fuel as it can get. So, if even one person reads this and finds out about a film they didn’t know to seek out before, then we have done our job for it’s one of 2021’s shining lights, and there haven’t been too many of those quite frankly.

Mills, coming off of acclaimed predecessors Beginners and the magnificent 20th Century Women, has become of of cinema’s unsung heroes in recent years, beguiling us with stories of life all told through a variety of different lenses and ideas but all of which try to embrace the common thread of life and our place amongst each other. This time the focus falls on Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix), a radio journalist in the midst of a gargantuan cross-country trip to interview children about their views on the world around them; his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffman), who has become more and more distant in the wake of their mother’s passing; and her son Jesse (Woody Norman), a spunky would-be teen who seems to have more of a handle of things than they do. With Viv’s husband (Scoot McNairy) struggling with his mental health, Johnny takes Jesse with him on his long quest and, despite some bumps, the two begin to bond like never before.

As with those other aforementioned efforts from Mills, his style is one of patience and freedom, his characters almost coming to life in front of his eyes as they are ours while taking his time to show us who and what with precision and panache. Big questions are discussed here but it’s the smaller ones, those intimate, semi-improvised moments of reflection and contemplation seemingly even more profound when told through the lens of childhood. When sometimes those unbearably difficult questions and decisions become simple by comparison.

Indeed, its stripped back camerawork and colour palette (gorgeously shot by Robbie Ryan in monochromed black and white) reflect Mills’ story and the eyes of a child, without years of growing pains and the nature of humanity, all combining in a glorious, beautiful and touching film that’s as hilarious as it is heartbreaking, and fuelled by three sensational central turns, with Norman blasting off into the stratosphere in one of his very first film roles. Phoenix, as ever, delivers another “career best performance” (when does he not not?!) but like his “real” best turn in Spike Jonze’s Her, he always touches his apex when asked to rein in his eccentricities and be closer to himself – the more sombre, introverted Phoenix – where he always shines brightest.

★★★★★


Drama | USA, 2021 | 15 | Cinema | 3rd December 2021 (UK)| Entertainment Films | Dir.Mike Mills |Joaquin Phoenix, Molly Webster, Woody Norman, Gaby Hoffman, Scoot McNairy, Jaboukie Young-White