Movie Review: C’mon C’mon (2021)

Now in theatres and on demand.

This is the ultimate “say uncle” to those who believe they can’t be moved by stories about the transformative effects of kids on adults. Cerebral, sweet and contemplative, the drama C’mon C’mon (B+) by writer/director Mike Mills sneaks up on viewers with universal truths. While a soft-spoken radio journalist (Joaquin Phoenix) travels the country to interview kids about life on earth, he also becomes temporary caretaker for his young nephew (Woody Norman) who offers the perfect foil to examine one’s station in life. At first it’s hard to penetrate the psyche or motivations of Phoenix’s numb, mumbling sad sack of a character, but the actor soon finds his way into the head of the wry cynic learning not to simply contemplate and make commentary about the world around him but to actively participate in it. He ultimately gives one of his most nuanced and lived-in performances. Norman is thoroughly convincing in some of the best child acting committed to screen. In depicting the ups and downs of even the most thoughtful children, the wise pint-sized character helps his custodian discover his inner kid but never in treacly or expected ways. It’s a master class of acting between someone on the cusp of 50 and another on the verge of 10. The episodic glimpses into surrogate parenthood are alternately fascinating and frustrating but always revelatory. Mills paints a lovely canvas on black and white with his travelogue alternating grandiose and intimate. Shots of towering NYC skyscrapers, New Orleans parades and parishes and sun-drenched pier-side promenades on the west coast lend atmospheric contrast to these little guys on a parallel coming of age journey. It’s no wonder the film evokes Chaplin’s The Kid or even Kramer vs. Kramer minus the depressing parts; it’s certainly one for the ages. The movie feels vaguely improvised in its observational style and requires a bit of patience at first but will give viewers a multitude of reasons to fall under its circuitously sentimental spell.

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