‘C’mon C’mon’ Movie Review: Joaquin Phoenix Explores a Sociological Look at America’s Future in a Sentimental Drama

C’mon C’mon is a solid drama filled with good intentions. Writer/director Mike Mills introduces a quiet, yet meaningful narrative that switches between a story about parenthood and interviews about America’s future. They’re connected in a sociological fashion that explores both society’s micro and macro levels. C’mon C’mon is a succinct and well-crafted film.

What is ‘C’mon C’mon’ about?

'C'mon C'mon' actors Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny and Woody Norman as Jesse walking through a crowd with Jesse on Johnny's back
L-R: Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny and Woody Norman as Jesse | A24 Films

Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) is a radio journalist. He’s traveling around the country interviewing youth to understand their lives, what makes them happy, and how they perceive America’s future. Johnny’s whole world is turned upside down when his sister, Viv (Gaby Hoffmann), asks for his help.

Viv is overwhelmed and reconnects with Johnny after some previous family troubles. As a result, he also gets to know his young nephew, Jesse (Woody Norman), who he hasn’t seen in quite some time. The uncle and nephew are thrown together as Johnny tries to juggle his career with caring for Jesse. But, their relationship will change their lives forever.

‘C’mon C’mon’ talks parenthood and America’s future

C’mon C’mon operates on both the micro and the macro. On the more personal end of the scale, Mills’ film is about the responsibility of parenthood. It’s approached in the form of uncle/nephew and mother/son. There’s a dash of father/son storytelling, but the focus remains on the two former relationships. Johnny and Viv each struggle with Jesse and occasionally feel as if they’re going to break down. However, they continue in the name of family and love, even if they often feel as if they’re exploring unfamiliar territory.

Johnny and Jesse’s relationship is the heart of C’mon C’mon. Jesse begins to wear on Johnny, but the love he holds for his nephew only grows stronger. The young boy is a lot to handle at times, but he’s also rather fascinating when he isn’t experiencing temper tantrums. Jesse talks about how he gets along better with adults than people his age, as he struggles with some of the same troubles as his mother and uncle.

Mills explores the macro via Johnny’s project. He records interviews with children across a handful of major cities in the United States. They bring up social issues, global warming, and more personal futures. Their perceptions range from optimistic to pessimistic, as some of them are fighting to simply keep their heads above water. C’mon C’mon gives the impression that these young children have a lot to say about their future, but the world just won’t listen.

A quieter film from A24

'C'mon C'mon' actors Woody Norman as Jesse and Gaby Hoffmann as Viv with Jesse in his bed and Viv sitting next to the bed with her arm on the bed
L-R: Woody Norman as Jesse and Gaby Hoffmann as Viv | A24 Films

C’mon C’mon is a quieter, more subtle feature from A24 Films. Mills handles the story and the characters with love and care. There are some narrative threads that could have been expanded upon, but Mills keeps the movie compact and focused. C’mon C’mon is very simplistic in its approach as it carries some large subject matter. Some of it feels a bit understated.

Mills gets stellar performances from all those on board. Phoenix delivers an impeccable portrayal as Johnny. He digs out the character’s strengths and elevates his weaknesses. Phoenix shares excellent chemistry with Norman, who is consistently believable in the role of Jesse. Meanwhile, Hoffmann’s Viv is tender and loving but also brings some good comedic relief to the movie.

Some narrative insistence bogs down C’mon C’mon’s pacing. However, Mills still has a very sentimental and touching movie on his hands that’s deeply relatable. Robbie Ryan’s gorgeous black-and-white cinematography emphasizes the movie’s sense of timelessness as it touches on the past, present, and future. C’mon C’mon is sociological, yet heartfelt storytelling that isn’t afraid to tell it like it is.

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