Of the many things that audiences can take away from C’mon C’mon, the newest film from writer-director Mike Mills, one will certainly be that kids are much more aware and articulate than adults often give them credit for.
C’mon C’mon follows Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix, Joker), a radio journalist currently traveling around the U.S. interviewing young people about the world—talking to them about how they thought their lives would be like and what they are inspired by. A phone call from his estranged sister Viv (Gaby Hoffmann, Transparent) leads to an unexpected crash course in parenting when Johnny finds himself looking after his young nephew Jesse (scene-stealing newcomer Woody Norman).
The film is a moving exploration of the connection between adults and kids, shot in black and white and shown through a lens of a familial relationship that experiences its share of growing pains during a short road trip. It’s another excellent turn for Phoenix, who brings a kind of wonderful uneasiness to Johnny, as the character all of a sudden has to account for another human in his everyday life. Norman meets him on every level as Jesse, with a genuine sense of curiosity and candor about the world around him. Whether their characters are capturing the ambient noise of New York City and New Orleans, testing one’s patience, or quietly reading a bedtime story, the effort to understand one another never fully ceases.
Fueled by family
Mills is certainly not a stranger to telling family-centered stories. The well-received 20th Century Women (2016), which earned the Berkeley native his first Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and Beginners (2010) both included autobiographical touchpoints from his relationships with each of his parents. With C’mon C’mon, Mills draws inspiration from his own connection with his child, once again opting to tap into the world of family.
“It’s like Game of Thrones—it’s where all the sh– happens,” explained Mills during a roundtable interview this past October while in town for the Mill Valley Film Festival. “It’s where all the biggest things in your life happen. And it’s like Game of Thrones meets Jung meets politics. To me, it’s the great loving battleground where we figure ourselves out.”
“Also, I feel like it’s my best chance to make something decent,” he added. “I’m writing about people I know about and have seen a long time, so I have a decent chance of getting my observations right.”