C'mon C'mon (4 stars)

C'mon C'mon

Mike Mills directs Joaquin Phoenix in an endearing odd couple dramedy

An estranged uncle and his anxious young nephew forge a touching bond in this funny, studiously sincere and beautifully performed film from writer-director Mike Mills (20th Century Women, Beginners). If the prospect of Joaquin Phoenix and Gaby Hoffmann playing siblings wasn't enticing enough, the film also throws in charming work from the young Woody Norman as the kid in question.

Phoenix plays radio journalist Johnny, who is touring America to find out what children think about their lives, futures and the state of the world today – and the interviews he conducts form a fascinating snapshot of their views. When Johnny's sister Viv (Hoffmann), with whom he has had a number of fallings out, has to travel to help her mentally ill ex Paul (Scoot McNairy) who is also the father of her nine-year-old son Jesse (Norman), Johnny agrees to look after Jesse, taking him to New York City when his work demands it.

With its familiar story of a slightly feckless middle-aged man forced to finally grow up as he wrangles with a not-exactly-easy kid C'mon C'mon is hardly a wildly original work, while it nods to Manhattan, for example, in both its music and monochromatic and elegant visuals. But it's all done with plenty of finesse and a characteristically strong screenplay, buoyed by thoughtfulness and humour. A particular highlight is the compellingly drawn relationship between the hangdog Johnny, whose personal life has not worked out as planned, and his hard-grafting single mom sister, who schools him in the harsh reality of child-rearing and juggling multiple responsibilities, as this formerly close pair come tentatively back together after some seismic disagreements.

It's been a consistent feature of his impressive career just how adept Phoenix is at both lighter material and that which requires great intensity and he brings enough dramatic weight to his amiable turn to let you glimpse Johnny's sadness without letting it overwhelm the character. And he and Norman make a great double act in a film that knows, if you take time to listen, you can learn an awful lot from the young.

Available to watch in cinemas from Friday 3 December.

C'mon C'mon

  • 4 stars
  • 2021
  • US
  • 1h 48min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Mike Mills
  • Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Gaby Hoffmann, Scoot McNairy, Molly Webster, Jaboukie Young-White, Woody Norman

After gracing audiences with Beginners and 20th Century Women, writer-director Mike Mills returns with another warm, insightful, and gratifyingly askew portrait of American family life. A soulful Joaquin Phoenix plays Johnny, a kindhearted radio journalist deep into a project in which he interviews children across the…