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The forgotten review for the film C’mon C’mon

Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) is radio journalist working on a project where he interviews children of
different backgrounds about various broad subjects such as their current lives, their general world
view and their dreams for the future. When his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffmann) asks him to look after her
9-year-old son Jesse (Woody Norman) while she cares for her bi-polar husband who’s going through
a rough time, he decides to bring the boy along with him as he travels cross-country for the
aforementioned project. C’mon C’mon is a film that for the most part consists of dialogue-filled
scenes focussing on the evolving relationship between Johnny and Jesse. They’ll be at a place talking,
or on their way to a place… talking. And that’s pretty much it. Well, there’s also Johnny talking to his
sister on the phone about him and Jesse talking and several scenes where Johnny’s on his own
recounting his day by – guess what – talking into his mic. You get the gist. There’s lots of talking.
While this may not seem particularly exciting to most, I found myself glued to the screen and
couldn’t wait to re-watch the film which I did two days later. Here’s why.

Obviously for something like this to work, you need a strong script first and foremost and
writer/director Mike Mills certainly delivered on that front. From the lyrical and contemplative
answers uttered by some of the young interviewees to the endearing playfulness and remarkable
spontaneity between our protagonists throughout their journey together, every word feels powerful
and true. At times the topics they discuss lean towards more mature and depressing themes. It
efficiently highlights how hard it can be sometimes to adapt your speech when conversing with a
young human and how important it is to try and align with their perspective and indulge their
childlike ways rather than constantly attempting to restrain them as we parents (or adults in
general) tend do to. All of that is compensated nicely by a contagious levity permeating throughout,
though, so you needn’t necessarily stock up on tissues for this one.

Evidently, the subsequent requirement is finding competent actors and here as well, they succeeded
across the board. Gaby Hoffmann is an absolute delight and brings great vitality to a character which
could have easily been portrayed as overly dramatic and whiny. Joaquin Phoenix is renowned for his
otherworldly performances and although one might say this particular character is somewhat more
grounded and ‘normal’ compared to roles we’d usually see him take on, he knocks it out of the park
yet again playing a kind-hearted man who finds himself in way over his head. Though he has good
connection with Jesse from the start, Johnny quickly realizes that caring for a young boy can be quite
challenging indeed. I specifically enjoyed watching him struggle to address certain topics or rather
being asked poignant questions by Jesse and not knowing how to formulate an appropriate
response. The bumbling manner in which he attempts to navigate these pitfalls was superbly well-
observed and immensely entertaining to watch. If you ask me, though, the golden star goes to
Woody Norman. I was dumbstruck by this kid’s natural talent. He never once gave me that feeling
you often have with child actors where they appear not to actually understand what they’re saying
or why they’re saying it or just can’t tap into the raw emotion necessary to make it sound
convincing, and it seems they’re just trying to reproduce a line as it was read to them by an grown-
up. None of that. His delivery was nothing short of flawless. His facial expressions were pure, and his
timing was impeccable. He exudes a charming energetic wit and imaginative spirit with a unique sort
of quirkiness typical for boys that age all the while revealing subtle hints of heart-breaking
vulnerability and disquiet. Impressive little dude.

Loïc Charlier

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