C’mon C’mon Review

Mike Mills is known for his films 20th Century Women and Beginners, both of which garnered a lot of critical acclaim. They received Academy Award nominations for actors who starred in them, including Christopher Plummer who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Beginners. He’s able to get at the heart of the characters in his films. The same goes for his newest film C’mon C’mon. The characters are very complex and multilayered.

Joaquin Phoenix plays the brother of a woman (Gaby Hoffman) and uncle to her nine-year-old son (Woody Norman). When the woman had to go to Oakland to deal with her husband (Scoot McNairy), she asks her brother to watch her son. When things take longer than she thought with her husband, her brother offers to take her son with him to New York. After a few bumps in the road, they eventually get more time to bond with each other on an uncle-nephew level.

Mills takes these characters and makes them very complicated and hard to figure out on a human level. That’s what makes them interesting. These aren’t normal archetypes. The sister has the husband who’s got his own problems to deal with and the uncle has his work and is now trying to take care of a nine-year-old boy. The boy is thrust into a new life that he doesn’t understand with a person he barely knows. Things aren’t easy on him either. Mills doesn’t pull any punches with the story or characters within it.

An interesting style choice that Mills makes is to film the movie in black and white. Even though the story and characters are black and white, they are more in a grey area. The black and white cinematography by Robbie Ryan is amazing in the film. The city streets have a lot of depth to them and the overhead shots show the vastness of the various locations in them. The black and white shows a lot of levels to the story and characters while also showing the beauty of all the locations and pain in some of the more internet more personal scenes. This was the best possible way to film this movie.

Phoenix has had a great last few years in his career, playing a hitman, a paraplegic cartoonist, Jesus, a brother in the old west and the Joker has been quite the range of roles for him over the last few years. Playing this brother/uncle may be the most difficult role of them all, though. He has to do a lot of heavy lifting as far as his communication with his sister and her struggles with her husband and also dealing with her son and his nephew. Plus he’s got a job to do as well. He had to use all his ability to make this character work on so many different levels.

C’mon C’mon doesn’t pull any punches on parenting or family relationships. Mills gets at the heart of these people while also making them relatable for those watching the film. The relationship between Phoenix and Norman is quite remarkable. Where they start and where it ends is very logical. How they relate to one another is beautiful. The cinematography by Ryan is breathtaking at times. The direction by Mills is subtle, but also not overstated either. It gets across what needs to be said and expressed by these characters. This film isn’t for everybody — Mills’s films usually aren’t — but give it a chance and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

4 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman

Founder/EIC disappointment media

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