C’mon C’mon: Another Review. By Nick Boyd.
The black-and-white shot film “C’mon C’mon” is a tender, thoughtful look at a radio journalist named Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) who interviews and really listens to children about their hopes and outlook for the future. Early on, he gets a call from his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffmann) who asks him to look after her son Jesse (played by film newcomer Woody Norman) in Los Angeles, as she deals with a messy situation with her ex named Paul (Scoot McNairy), who is hundreds of miles away and needs help.
Ill-prepared for what he is about to take on, Johnny (single with no kids) discovers that the boy is curious and energetic, but requires a lot of patience as he navigates the ups and downs of parenting. It is apparent that Jesse has been raised in a very laid-back environment with little structure. He is imaginative and fascinated by make-believe scenarios. The chemistry between Johnny and his nephew is magical and their relationship is full of honesty and empathy.
One day, Johnny asks Jesse if he would like to go with him to New York City, which Jesse has never been to before. The reason for the New York trip is so Johnny can get back to his work, but it also allows the chance for Jesse to experience a completely new environment and learn more about Johnny’s work first-hand. It also lets the viewer experience the sunny beaches of Los Angeles juxtaposed against the grittiness of New York City’s crowded sidewalks.
As Johnny and Jesse form a bond, the film pulls on your heartstrings without being contrived. Jesse is quirky, but also endearing with an authenticity that will win you over. Johnny on the other hand is more reserved, but also occasionally playful and rambunctious a bit when Jesse’s energy level is high. The role is certainly a less intense one than we are used to seeing from Phoenix. (Think “The Joker” and “The Master.”)
The interviewing of the kids by Johnny and his team gives the movie a different kind of approach, albeit I think an effective one, that turns it into a quasi documentary. What the interviewees have to say, while not necessarily profound, nonetheless offers up moments of reflection, which we also get from the characters as well.
This low-key yet poignant drama is very well-written and acted, providing relationships and interactions that come across as genuine and heartwarming. The rawness of the emotions is palpable, and while the picture is simple and somewhat bleak – both in its look and in the situations that are presented – the ending does provide some hope, not simply for the characters’ uncertain future, but for all of us.
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