C’mon C’mon is the latest A24 film directed by Mike Mills and starring Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny, a radio journalist who is left to take care of his young nephew Jesse. The film’s pivotal focus is centred around the development of Johnny and Jesse’s (Woody Norman) relationship, alongside repairing the troubled bond between Johnny and his sister, Viv (Gaby Hoffman).
Despite being a radio journalist, Johnny struggles to express his emotions and is at first reluctant to answer the searching questions asked by Jesse. As a child, he questions why Johnny doesn’t talk to Viv and asks why Johnny must look after him. Jesse knows something is wrong but isn’t sure what.
This film beautifully depicts how children are smarter than we think; even if we don’t tell them what’s going on they know when someone is troubled. The film does an excellent job of showcasing vulnerability and discussing sensitive topics with children, such as mental health.
Above all, C’mon C’mon is about parenting. Johnny struggles to relate and interact with Jesse, and their relationship grows organically. It isn’t a smooth curve of development; they have troubles in their relationship from start to finish. That’s what being a parent is like though, you have to set boundaries on what behaviour is appropriate so that the child becomes well-developed.
Whilst Jesse’s relationship with Johnny improves, he misses his mother but is scared to go back home if she is still stressed. The relationship between parent and child is really put to the test with these geographical differences. The character Viv was incredible at showcasing the struggles of what you may want as a parent (to be with your child) and the obligations you must fulfil (make sure that your loved one is safe). Although she is physically far away, she tries her best to call frequently to interact with her son and reassure Johnny of what to do.
Whilst Johnny learns about Jesse and his emotions, he also finds self-discovery in the relationship. He recognises how he represses his emotions, so reluctant to answer questions and open up. Whether this is about his turbulent relationship with Viv or how his past relationship broke down, he learns how to express himself through learning how to get Jesse to open up about himself.
Although Johnny’s job is to ask children questions about their vision of the future, he struggles to look at the future as he still focuses on his past. Through the lessons he learns when being Jesse’s supervisor, he can come to terms with his past and can look towards strengthening the bonds he has with his family.
Throughout the film, Johnny’s memories of his deceased mother are compared to the struggles that Viv’s husband has, highlighting how each person deals with grief and hardship. Whilst the passing of their mother tore their relationship apart, Viv’s husband’s struggles to bring Viv and Johnny closer as they are forced to be in contact for Jesse’s sake.
When family needs each other, they’re there for each other. I thought that C’mon C’mon was one of the most human films I’ve seen in a long time. When all of the characters are flawed to some extent, it makes the relationships and dynamics between one another feel very real and easy to get invested in. Woody Norman provides one of the best child acting performances of the decade, and Joaquin Phoenix was perfectly cast to play his uncle.
This is a timeless, feel-good movie, and it deserves all of the critical praise that it has already been given.