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Mike Mills C’mon C’mon Review


C’mon C’mon | Review

Turn the Dial: Mills Explores the Mysteries of Youth, Exalted.

Mike Mills C’mon C’mon ReviewMike MillsC’mon C’mon is a poignant, mellow ode to the next generation, explored through the duet of a lonely frumpled uncle and his eccentric handful of a nephew. Uncle Johnny (an understated but avuncular Joaquin Phoenix) is a radio journalist who interviews children about the future; his nephew Jesse (a soulful Woody Norman) is a quixotic nine-year-old who pretends he’s an orphan in order to cope with his father’s absence.

Seen through the lens of Mills’ own recent parenthood, this film gazes longingly at the mystery of youth (it’s even shot in black and white) and brims with soulful sincerity. It is, however, less transcendent than Mills’ earlier exaltations of parenthood, 20th Century Women (2016) and Beginners (2010): a more down-to-earth turn that comes at the expense of past joie-de-vivre. Prepare to be touched, but more gently.

Phoenix and Norman shine as Johnny and Jesse. On a basic level, these two souls desperately need one another: Johnny’s love life is nonexistent, and his mother’s recent death still haunts him; his estranged sister Viv, Jesse’s Mom (played with heartfelt grace by Gaby Hoffman), is consumed by her wayward, bipolar ex-husband Paul (a boyish Scoot McNairy). The nephew aches for a surrogate parent, the uncle aches for companionship … plus the chance to reframe his adult grief through a more innocent perspective. Together, they form a perfect symbiosis—unexpected and utterly convincing. This odd couple plays so well one-on-one, it’s easy to forget that you’re watching a movie.

Lifelike energy is no small feat, but Mills is dedicated to authentic mood-setting. His own background as a graphic designer paired with Robbie Ryan’s elegant cinematography adds formal beauty to the film’s B&W realism; book excerpts, read aloud to Jesse, stir wants and needs into an intellectual stew.

Less appealing are frequent phone updates between Johnny and Viv: while remarkably natural and often amusing, they pave over subtextual potential with needless exposition, reminding us how characters felt in an earlier scene. More effective are Johnny’s radio interviews with non-actor kids—his professional escape-route from loveless adulthood—sprinkled throughout as poetic grace notes, inviting comparison to another 2021 release in Pietro Marcello’s inspiring Futura. Jesse isn’t afraid to ask questions either, often interrogating his uncle with the directness of a therapist: “Why aren’t you married?” In one awkward scene, Johnny finds himself trying to explain abortion to his precocious nephew.

C’mon C’mon is a vessel for introspection, truly heartwarming despite minor flaws, filled with sensitive performances and affectionate touches that make Mills a worthy voice in the indie film world. The takeaways depend on the audience: if you’re not a parent, a soon-to-be parent or aching to be one, certain moments may feel obvious, cutesy or overly serious (or all of the above when Debussy’s “Clair De Lune” comes on)—but even at its most meandering, C’mon C’mon is too fullhearted to sneer at. This film is rich with genuine, often revelatory wisdom, crafted with the unconditional tenderness of a parent. Mills asks us to honor complex emotions, to embrace our inner-child and accept how little we understand … all in hopes that tomorrow we’ll run faster, stretch farther, and treasure the memories.


Dylan Kai Dempsey is a New York-based writer/filmmaker. His reviews have been published in Vanity Fair, Variety, No Film School, and He’s also developing a graphic novel as well as his own award-winning pilot script, #Likes4Lucas. He began as a development intern at Bonafide Productions in L.A. and Rainmark Productions in London.

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