Austin Burke’s review published on Letterboxd:
A radio journalist embarks on a cross-country trip with his young nephew.
Mike Mills has never been a director that comes to mind when talking about the “best in the business.” 20th Century Women is a great film, but I am just not as caught up with his work. It is time to change that after seeing C’mon C’mon, which is not only my favorite of the year so far, but it will go down as one of A24’s top tier outings (this is an impressive accomplishment). This film is gentle, comforting, real, honest, and filled with raw emotion from top to bottom. Not only do we get a beautifully written scripted narrative, but Joaquin’s crew goes around and interviews kids for this documentary his character is making. The kids being interviewed are giving unscripted answers to these questions, and apparently none of them knew this was going to be included in a feature-length film. Mills may have tipped his cap with “Joker” being the one conducting the interviews, but who knows, maybe these kids haven’t seen that film.
I would also recommend staying through the credits because of a few of the remaining interviews being played, and there is a heartbreaking dedication to one of the kids in the film. Just the moments with these young individuals describing how they see the world, their futures, and their friendships are enough to pull you in. Beyond this, it plays like a “road trip movie” as Joaquin’s Johnny and Woody Norman’s Jesse travel the country to find these interviews. Along the way, these two are trying to figure each other out as they attempt to get along through numerous ups and downs. Jesse’s mother, played beautifully by Gaby Hoffman, is having to deal with a bit of family drama back home, and this is just another thing young Jesse has to deal with. All of this is slowly culminating, along with the fact that Jesse is having to live in a different environment altogether. Even with the shifting balance of his life, he and Johnny are finding ways to have fun nonetheless.
Johnny is trying to make this work for his sister, but even he begins to admit that he is enjoying his parental duties. These two play off of each other so well, and their interactions are occasionally hilarious. Norman plays it like he has been in the business for years, and he genuinely measures up to (and maybe surpasses) Joaquin’s awesome performance. What makes this more than just an artistic road trip storyline is the attention to detail and way it is all presented to us. Every important line finds its way back to us, every subtle moment means something, and every shot is gorgeous. The cinematography here is outstanding. Every time we go to a new city, the narrative pauses to tell us something about that city. We get a handful of shots showcasing its beauty, and plays like a brief but relevant commercial break before getting back to some occasionally heavy moments.
Yes, the comedic beats are there, but the film is not afraid to tug on your heartstrings. I also love the idea of going with black and white. This gives it an authenticity that makes it even more memorable, and the movie’s use of Grayscale is much better than most others that attempt to go for that (the shadows, background, and foreground just look so good). The film then culminates with a semi-predictable but expertly handled final few scenes that will have viewers sniffling. It is one of the only films to bring that type of emotion out of me this year, as I was just grinning from ear to ear as it all went down. Oddly enough, Marriage Story was the last film that brought these specific emotions for me; it beautifully mixed sadness with this sense of optimism. I also just love a good story built around a friendship, and that’s exactly what this core relationship feels like. It spoke to me in a way that I wasn’t expecting, and I had no clue I would respond to C’mon C’mon in this way.
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