C’mon C’mon by Mike Mills [10/10]

While watching, transfixed, “C’mon C’mon,” I almost shouted “Who is Mike Mills and why have I not seen anything by him?” An American filmmaker with a huge reputation, this is his fourth full-length feature, and it’s a crime he is not better known. The instant the movie clocks on, you know this is an arthouse film: shot in black and white (Robbie Ryan’s cinematography is fluid and subtle, perfectly aligned); low-key dialogue; eclectic, even weird music; swift transitions between scenes; a willingness to dwell or pan out. The story is simple. Johnny, a radio journalist working with a small team to conduct oral interviews with the youth of America about their prospects, hopes, and dreams, comes to the aid of his sister Viv who needs to tend to her manic husband. Their nine-year-old son Jesse becomes Johnny’s charge, and as Viv’s burdens increase, uncle and nephew gradually get to know each other and embark on a road trip of sorts, the locale eventually changing to New Orleans. C’mon C’mon is very much a character study of those three, and the performances of Joaquin Phoenix (endearingly rumpled, earnest, and lost), Gaby Hoffmann (heroically part frazzled and enduring and intelligent), and, most of all, Woody Norman (screen role of the year, in my estimation, assured yet vulnerable, achingly present) are sublime. This reviewer’s stony heart was broken again and again, yet never by sentimentality, always by recognition of truth and love. Ah, enough, enough, go and see C’mon C’mon. I tag it as masterpiece.

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