C'mon C'mon

C'mon C'mon ★★★★

C’mon C’mon aches. The movie’s desaturated, black-and-white cinematography is beautiful, but also evocative of a family dynamic that’s slowly being drained of the will to live. Juggling a husband (Scoot McNairy) suffering from a bipolar episode and a sensitive young son (Woody Norman) confused as to where he fits, Viv (Gaby Hoffman) has to call in an emergency reinforcement: her single, emotionally reserved brother Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix). A key detail comes early on: these siblings haven’t spoken in a year, since the death of their mother. Yet when reunited, they fall into an easy, intimate rhythm. And as Johnny temporarily takes over as full-time parent, while Viv tends to her spouse, he shows a natural understanding of how to relate to Jesse, the boy. Initially he tries to interview him for a podcast he’s producing, in which children share their thoughts about the future, but sensing Jesse’s discomfort in the topic and noticing his interest in the recording device, Johnny hands the mic over and lets Jesse capture the sounds of his small world instead. (It’s a good lesson; when trying to connect with kids, let them take the lead.) Phoenix is, expectedly, excellent—generous and light as he plays off his talented young costar. Writer-director Mike Mills (Thumbsucker, 20th Century Women) has a similarly soft touch, with the cinematography and also the sound design (I like how overlapping dialogue often segues us from one scene to the next, creating a singular sensory experience). Full of nuance and understanding, C’mon C’mon meets a family in crisis and proceeds to hold them in its gentle hands.