Movies get lost in the jumble of Covid influenced release schedules, so audiences only now get a broad chance to see the enjoyable picture C’mon C’mon starring Joaquin Phoenix. Now available to stream or buy, C’mon C’mon comes from writer-director Mike Mills, whose other works like 20th Century Women balance a light touch with serious concepts.
In C’mon C’mon, Mills puts an audio journalist at the center of his story, allowing the character to interview young people about the issues they currently face. This adds depth to a plot springboard featuring a familiar concept: isolated man-boy forced to care for a precocious boy-man, with both learning and benefitting from the experience.
Mills shows he wants to go beyond cliches by filming in black and white, which gives a documentary feel to action, especially since locations switch with flexibility, from Los Angeles to New York, New Orleans, and more. Mills also brings gravitas to his project by casting serious actors. After all, with an Oscar for his warped Joker and a reputation for humanitarian interests, Phoenix chooses projects carefully, casting his eye toward substance.
C’mon C’mon lets Phoenix play a loner who interacts with people as part of his job but fails to understand the value of actual connection. Looking rumpled and haggard, Phoenix conveys a gradual emotional growth that starts quietly and eventually leads to more vivid expression.
Key to the film’s success however, young Woody Norman plays a boy who knows the worth of connection and wants more of it. Norman expresses understanding without slipping into that too-familiar kid who talks just like an adult. The cast also includes former child actor Gaby Hoffman with a fine performance as a mother pulled in too many directions.
Conflict exists in the set-up, but without the flash of soap or comic book dynamics. This helps C’mon C’mon stay grounded, offering mild observations and insights about life and its challenges.