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C’mon C’mon Review – IGN

C’mon C’mon debuts in theaters on Nov. 19.

It’s rare for a quote-unquote adult film to genuinely value the perspective of young children, but that’s exactly what Mike Mills’ sensational C’mon C’mon does, even if its premise initially feels just a little too convenient. Joaquin Phoenix plays Johnny, a radio journalist interviewing young people throughout various U.S. cities asking a question most broad: “What do you think the future is going to be like?”

The film, shot entirely in black and white and on location, hops from Detroit to Los Angeles to New York and finally to New Orleans, each time stopping to really make a meal out of each city and the personalities of the young minds living within them. As Johnny puts it, he enters and exits the lives that his subjects keep living, leaving behind their situations as he builds upon his own.

But his situation changes when his estranged sister (Gaby Hoffmann) asks him to take her son, Jesse (Woody Norman), with him while she tries to take care of her drug-addled partner (Scoot McNairy), Jesse’s father. Suddenly, Johnny finds that, while he remains an observer in his work, he is helping create the situation of Jesse’s young life — a situation that is every bit as complex, challenging, and unique as those of his subjects.

The film doesn’t play up the irony of a child imposing on work that involves getting children to say profound things about the world and life to an annoying degree. While one may roll their eyes at the initial thematic obviousness of Mills’ premise, the writer-director’s approach and intent feel completely honest. That said, while Johnny and Jesse’s relationship is rich and utterly human, C’mon C’mon more quietly has the state of the world on its mind.

C’mon C’mon feels specifically targeted at those old enough to listen to and reflect on what Jesse and the other children say throughout the film from a place of melancholic complacency — an inherently adult emotional state of mind. Even as the film harnesses the pure, unfiltered perspective of America’s youth, we’re clearly here to observe what that does to middle-aged Johnny. This is a man who interacts with children for his occupation but doesn’t have any kids himself. To call him a hack would be harsh, but not totally off base. Even if he understands the value of his work, his approach is more transactional than it is empathetic. And that’s where a temperamental 10-year-old gets to double as an unpredictable battering ram into Jesse’s existence.

Writer-director Mike Mills gets the very best from Joaquin Phoenix.


For the film to work, Phoenix’s and Norman’s chemistry needs to be pitch perfect, and it is. Here, the Joker actor is totally against type, playing a normal, schlubby, awkward figure you could pass on the street and never even notice. Norman, meanwhile, gives a revelatory performance for a child actor. Together they make magic, perfectly exhibiting the terrifying uncharted waters both their characters find themselves in. We see fear in their eyes often, but joy creeps in there more and more as they forcibly get acclimated with their uncomfortable situation.

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As Jesse isn’t one of Johnny’s interview subjects, they’re merely part of each other’s every day. Jesse’s occasional tantrums don’t seem to carry the same weight as what the kids Johnny meets just once say into his microphone. What this unlikely pair is experiencing is simply life — the impacts both small and large that we leave on people close to us, enriching, hurting, and loving each other. Saying it, and writing it, is more cliche than the truth of just living it. But for this beautiful exploration of generational perspective, merely living is more than enough.

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