C’mon C’mon (2021)
Directed by Mike Mills
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Gabby Hoffman and Woody Norman
As Arthur Fleck in Joker, Joaquin Phoenix gave depth to one of the most relatable and well-understood villains in cinema history. How do you follow that up? By starring as Johnny in Mike Mill’s understated 2021 classic C’Mon C’Mon.
Who is Johnny? Why does Johnny need to take care of young Jesse while his mother Viv is away? And why is Viv going away? These questions remain unanswered as this family drama begins to unfold. The lack of exposition is refreshing and only a little bit frustrating. Johnny is left in charge of the young Jesse, played expertly by 11-year-old English actor Woody Norman. The only other significant role is played by Gaby Hoffmann who plays Jesse’s mother, Viv. This acting triumvirate and the dialogue they deliver is all we need to feel a broad range of emotions that include anxiety, hope, sadness and triumph.
Filmed in an almost “silver metallic” black and white and in the seldom used 1.66:1 aspect ratio, C’Mon C’Mon is visually different than most films. The approach creates a strange palette, not just with its monochromatic look but in the way it moves and flows and enhances the viewer’s emotional response. I felt “boxed in” with Johnny and Jesse as they got to know each other. But I was able to appreciate each outdoor location and associated iconography, which seemed to stretch the film beyond the limitations of its aspect ratio.
C’Mon C’Mon is beautiful to look at but it didn’t need to be – though my eye wanted to scan the screen to view the elegance of the visual art, my attention always came back to the faces of our main characters. These faces told the story as much as the words they spoke.
In an attempt not to disrupt your “optimum immersion” into this film I won’t reveal any of the plot points, opting instead to let you know that this is one of those “a few days in the life of” kind of films that you wish would have been “a few months in the life of.” With art like this – the kind that hits on all levels – we will take what we can get. In the case of C’Mom C’Mon, what we get is 1 hour 49 minutes of beautiful cinematography, intense emotional acting and a story about three heroes, all of whom we come to understand intimately by the time the film ends.
If the last film Joaquin Phoenix starred in, Joker (2019), was an A+ then his subsequent film C’mon C’mon is also an A+, as well as my favorite film of 2021.