12 April 2024
Scene from Don't Make Me Go

JOHN CHO and MIA ISAAC star in DON'T MAKE ME GO Courtesy of: Prime Video © 2022 Amazon Content Services LLC

Prime Video Review – Don’t Make Me Go (2022)

It’s one of the most familiar movie genres. From ground breakers like Easy Rider and Thelma And Louise, to the comedy of Planes, Trains And Automobiles and the social issues of Green Book and all stops in between, road movies are a cinematic staple, one with almost limitless dramatic opportunities. That said, filmmakers can often find themselves simply following the format, so a road movie with a genuinely fresh slant on the convention is a welcome change. Say hello to Don’t Make Me Go.

Initially, it looks routine – a father and daughter embarking on a long drive. But there’s a lot more going on here. Single dad Max (John Cho) has been diagnosed with a terminal condition and, in what time he has left, he’s determined to make sure his teenage daughter Wally (Mia Isaac) has a secure future. That means driving cross country to track down her birth mother Nicole (Jen Van Epps), who deserted both of them when Wally was just a year old. Finding her is difficult enough and the prospect of a reunion is daunting, but that’s just one part of the journey. It’s an opportunity for father and daughter to get to know each other even better and for them to mature as people, especially when it comes to their respective personal relationships.

That makes it sound like a weighty, almost solemn, effort from first-time director Hannah Marks and scriptwriter Vera Herbert, but the two take a playful attitude to the format, and have a great deal of fun in the process. The accidental visit to a nudist beach in Florida is a highlight and what could be over-familiar and saccharine has a fresh, wicked sense of fun, balanced by the time given over to more serious issues. The planned reunion with Nicole doesn’t go to plan, partly because of her now-estranged ex Dale (Jermain Clement): he was the reason she left Max – his best friend. That experience has made Max afraid of commitment, so his relationship with Annie (Kaya Scodelario) is off one moment, on the next – something you’d expect of Wally’s age group.

Inevitably, the success of the film depends on the two leads and, in pairing the newcomer Isaac with the experienced and ever-watchable Cho, Marks has pulled off a master stroke. Their chemistry is almost tangible, Isaac is a great match for her on-screen dad and Cho is pitch perfect in a complex but sympathetic role. His singing is pretty good as well. As the film draws to a close, it strays into more predictable territory, perhaps giving us more information than we actually need. But it’s the only time it strikes a false note. Otherwise, it’s charming, endearing and thoughtful. You won’t want to make Max and Wally go.

★★★1/2


Drama | Cert: 15 | Prime Video from 15 July | Dir. Hannah Marks | John Cho, Mia Isaac, Kaya Scodelario, Jermain Clement, Jen Van Epps | Watch our exclusive interview with director Hannah Marks here.


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