In Review

Film review: C’mon C’mon

Joaquin Phoenix excels as a regular guy

Joaquin Phoenix has played a succession of misfits, loners and oddballs in recent years, said Alistair Harkness in The Scotsman. But in C’mon C’mon he shows his extraordinary range by playing a regular guy – Johnny, a radio producer in New York who volunteers to look after his nine-year-old nephew Jesse (Woody Norman) while the boy’s mother deals with a family crisis. Eventually the pair hit the road, travelling everywhere from New York to New Orleans and Detroit, as Johnny records a documentary about children. The story is “essentially about a cute kid bonding with an emotionally stunted adult”, but director Mike Mills avoids the traps of this “mini-genre” by approaching his subject matter with “honesty, humour and a refusal to serve up easily resolved emotional problems”.

A story about love, and the tug of war between self-interest and selflessness, C’mon C’mon is a nice film about nice people, said Manohla Dargis in The New York Times, and “I feel almost bad” for not liking it more. Shot in shimmering black and white, it delivers “laughs, pinpricks of pain and storms of emotion” – and yet watching Johnny grope his way through his parenting duties starts to become “exasperating”, and to feel like a lesson in “enlightened gender roles”. Well, I loved it, said Tim Robey in The Daily Telegraph. Giving the “least pushy performance” of his career, Phoenix has “rarely been more relatable”; and he is brilliantly supported by Norman, “one of the most believable kids on screen in ages”. “Although it was shot before the pandemic, the grown-up anxieties of this story only have greater resonance because of all that Covid has wrought.”

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