November 11, 2021

CINEMA | Joaquin Phoenix Babysits 'C'mon C'mon'

"I mostly hang out with adults."
Joaquin Phoenix Woody Norman Mike Mills | C'mon C'mon A24
A24 / VVS Films
Indie filmmaker Mike Mills offers another ambitiously told, but rather small-scale, family dramedy of loveable weirdos living their lives starring Joaquin Phoenix as a single/childless radio journalist, Johnny, babysitting his sweet but offbeat nine-year-old nephew (Woody Norman as Jesse). C'mon C'mon is a thoughtful contemporary black-and-white film about how children relate to adults—shades of "New York Lonely Boy".

Co-starring Gaby Hoffmann and Scoot McNairy as Jesse's struggling single mother and his bipolar father afflicted with manic episodes (seen entirely through montages and flashbacks), we see how their fractured family life contrasts to Johnny's cross-country work trips repetitiously interviewing kids about their hopefulness for the future.

Phoenix and Norman have a charming, naturalistic chemistry where they feel like a real uncle and nephew getting to know each other as individuals. Norman is so playful, earnest, and believably mischievous in his curiosity, it hardly feels like he's acting at all.

Full of little details, small moments of life, and detours from being thrust into being a temporary caretaker, Mills continues his obsession with the future as Phoenix's Johnny interviews school-age children throughout the film from all over the U.S. about their feelings on the forward direction of humanity.

A moody piece of slice of life cinema, C'mon C'mon's empathy and contemporary vision of a loving extended family dealing with trauma paint an open-hearted portrait of parenthood. Mills once again is able to dramatize his characters' sense of coming-of-age through arrested adulthood.

More | YVArcade / AV Club / Indiewire / Vox

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