by Chris Connor
Mike Mills has built a stellar reputation over the past twenty years with his 2010 and 2016 films Beginners and 20th Century Women earning stellar reviews and tackling some hefty themes. Mills returns with his first effort in five years with C’mon C’mon which has earned very positive early reviews and been marked as an outside contender for awards season.
C’mon C’mon focuses on Joaquin Phoenix’s Johnny a travelling radio journalist working on a project cataloguing young people’s thoughts on the future. The story centres on the relationship between Johnny and his nephew Jesse, for whom he is caring while his sister Viv looks after her troubled husband. Johnny takes Jesse on his recording trip and so the film ventures to several parts of the US beginning in Los Angeles before New York and New Orleans. The film is partly inspired by Mills’ own son Hopper and it is clearly a deeply personal project for him.
The black and white cinematography helps to accentuate the introspective and melancholic and tone of the film with it being so clearly focused on the relationships between Johnny and Jesse and Johnny and Viv. It adds depth to the sunlit and beach scenes in LA and the New York skyline.
The performances make what might seem mundane into something quite profound with Phoenix, now a father himself coming to grips with what it takes to care for Jesse and how difficult and profound the experience can be. In a career built on excellent performances this is one of Phoenix’s most moving and in contrast to some of his darker work on films like Joker or The Master. With the film focusing on a cast of three core characters, the performances are crucial to its success.
The journey the pair go-on is something to behold and nine-year-old Woody Norman (remarkably a Brit) holds his own against Phoenix with what must rank as one of the strongest child performances for some years. Gaby Hoffman as Viv sells the joy and strain motherhood has had on her, coupled with the exertions of her husband Paul’s condition. She deserves the same amount of praise being directed towards Phoenix and Norman.
It is a moving reflection on childhood dreams and how our views on the world change as we get older. The use of Johnny’s radio programmes helps Jesse come to terms with the world around him and gives us a sense of the importance of hearing the youth’s voice. It is ultimately about listening to others and how this will help us come to terms with the things going on in our lives, in the case of Johnny this is coming to terms with the death of his mother and splitting from his long term girlfriend.
C’mon C’mon is a moving and reflective portrait of the joys of childhood and the little things that help to shape this point in life. It is an eye-opening reflection on the youth of today and the will to shape the future. The performances excel in illuminating the impact of grief and how relationships can heal over time. It is a privilege to witness the journey of Jesse and Johnny as they become an important fixture in one another’s lives. We can only hope this marks more of Mike Mills’ genius and hopefully a shorter turnaround for his next film, he is leaving quite a legacy and C’mon C’mon is the latest chapter of his brilliance.
C’mon C’mon is out in cinemas now!