“The future looks bright with C’MON C’MON in the world” tweets production company A24 — and they’re absolutely right.
The movie had its world premiere at the 48th Telluride Film Festival in September, and came home to New Orleans where it opened the New Orleans Film Festival on November 6th with writer/director Mike Mills in attendance.
After a five year hiatus, Mike Mills is back aiming straight for the heart with another look at the relationship between parents and their children. The film follows in the footsteps of 2010’s Beginners (which was inspired by the writer/director’s father) and 2016’s 20th Century Women (a reflective look at his mother and the matriarchal home he was raised in). C’mon C’mon is based on Mills’s relationship with his 9-year-old son, Hopper, and a conversation he had with his son while giving him a bath.
The film follows Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix), a radio journalist who embarks on a cross-country trip with his young nephew from Los Angeles to New York to Detroit and finally to New Orleans. Johnny’s cross country trips involve interviewing young children about the future, what they would change, and what they hope for. The children interviewed aren’t actors, and offer an insightful and resilient hopefulness into the future through their eyes without judgement. So, part of the film is a documentary overlaid with a fictional plot, which works to a degree.
But why film in New Orleans? With backdrops like New York and LA, New Orleans seemed a little off the beaten path for the film.
“I have a friend from here, and like all other New Orleanians I have ever met, he talks a lot about New Orleans. It was an intuitive choice that I felt would make a transformational ending. As the finale, I think New Orleans was a great choice.” Mike Mills via UptownMessenger
Listening to Mills speak on the importance of preserving New Orleans as part of the backdrop of the story, I assumed that New Orleans would play a more integral role in the film. Sadly, it doesn’t.
The film is a massive intimate shift for Joaquin Phoenix whose last role was his Academy Award winning role as the antihero in Joker. Both Phoenix and newcomer Woody Norman carry the film, but it’s Phoenix who carried my attention.
“More than once, Jesse asks why Johnny is not married, why he is alone, why he and his mother don’t talk anymore; Johnny smirks uncomfortably while the wide-eyed Jesse interrogates. These small confrontations, ripe with humor, exhibit the adult’s insecure childishness and the boy’s wise curiosity in a stimulating reversal.” via The Wrap
C’mon C’mon explores the intricacies of parenthood with the difficulties, pressures, and uncertainties of raising a little human. The film ponders on life and love while relentlessly pulling at our heartstrings. Mills definitely wants his audience to soak up every aspect of his characters, which does prove daunting at times. Unfortunately, I felt like the movie was two movies in one both vying for our attention. While sweet and extremely thoughtful, what I’ll remember are the performances over the actual plot.