C’mon C’mon is undoubtedly my favorite film of 2021. It stars Joaquin Phoenix (Joker, The Master) as Johnny, an audio journalist who babysits his nephew Jesse (Woody Norman) in Los Angeles, while his estranged sister, Viv (Gaby Hoffmann), tries to get her husband medical treatment for his mental illness. While Johnny is only asked to watch Jesse for a weekend, this trip extends when Viv’s husband refuses to be admitted. Johnny takes Jesse to New York and eventually New Orleans as he works on a story about how young people in different cities feel about the future.
Johnny, Jesse, and Viv have ups and downs in their relationship together. Johnny struggles to open up to Jesse, Jesse has fears of becoming like his father while being away from his mother, and Viv struggles with trying to help a husband who doesn’t want to be helped. Johnny quickly adjusts to his role as caretaker, and that includes the negative aspects of being a parent. He makes an audio-diary of his time with Jesse and he reflects on the annoyance, worry, and joy of being with him.
The film was written and directed by Mike Mills, whose previous projects Beginners and 20th Century Women follows a similar trend as C’mon C’mon in focusing on parenthood, youth, and the connection between the two. Johnny and Viv’s mother had dementia, and they disagreed on how they should treat her (with Johnny giving in to her fantasies and Viv refusing), causing their year-long estrangement. Viv states that Johnny lost a mother who adored him, while Viv had a mother who never understood her. We see this cycle end with Jesse being a kid that both Johnny and Viv sometimes don’t understand, but still embrace and go with his quirks.
My favorite feature of the movie was its heart. Like 20th Century Women, the film is compelling in such a simple, raw way that makes you reflect on your own life and the people around you. The reasoning for the title is explained in the movie and was one of many moments where I shed a few tears. Additionally, I often have negative to neutral feelings about kids being in movies, but Woody Norman makes an exception — he holds his own next to Phoenix and is arguably the core of the film. All of the actors do an exceptional job, which is easy with equally strong dialogue and directing.
It is an A24 film that doesn’t have too many screenings in the DMV area, but it’s worth making the trip to see in theaters!