‘C’mon C’mon’ Summary & Review: It Is Our Relations That Make Us Human

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C’mon C’mon is a drama film written and directed by Mike Mills, and delves into the difficulties and joys inherent within human relations. With radio journalist Johnny as the main protagonist, C’mon C’mon shows his effort at mending his estranged relationship with his sister, and in the process, creating a beautiful bond with his nine-year-old nephew, Jesse. Shot completely in black and white, aided by stunning cinematography and pacing, the film is a refreshing and thoughtful watch.

Johnny works as a journalist for a radio programme and travels to various cities interviewing children and teenagers about how they feel about the future. While on such a trip to Detroit, he calls his sister Viv to know how she is doing, as they had not been in touch since their mother’s death. Learning that Viv has to go help her husband Paul navigate his mental health issues in Oakland, Johnny agrees to travel to Los Angeles and look after Jesse till she returns. Having seen each other after a long time, uncle and nephew start their relation over. Jesse is introduced to various sound recording equipment that his uncle uses in his profession, and is almost immediately attracted to going around the city and on the beach, recording sounds. 

In the meantime, Viv has trouble convincing Paul to seek professional help and has to stay away longer. Johnny decides to go back to work and also takes Jesse with him back to New York, and the two keep growing closer and more comfortable with one another. 

Johnny struggles to find a balance between his professional involvements and giving time and attention to his nephew, and in the process, loses the kid in a store and on the streets of New York. Immediately getting scared and concerned, he searches frantically, only to find Jesse amused and laughing (as he was trying to prank his uncle) the first time and scared (thinking he was lost) the second time. Although they apologize to each other and make it up, Johnny realizes the urgency of his professional call and decides to go on a tour to New Orleans to continue the interviews. He plans to send Jesse back to his mother, but during their drive to the airport, Jesse convinces him to keep him in his company. Together, they head to New Orleans to learn more about each other, their individual relationships, and particularly for Johnny, about his own self.

Understandably, the charm of C’mon C’mon lies in its characters, their blossoming relationships, and how all of it is presented in the most gradual, convincing, and profound manner. Johnny, played exquisitely by Joaquin Phoenix, is a relatable man of the modern age, keeping busy with his profession and interests, with a rather endearing social awkwardness. While he struggles with a bittersweet past too, his obvious human wish to reconcile sour relations in order to grow closer to his sister and nephew is what forms the main take-away of the film. 

Woody Norman as Jesse is no less impressive in his performance, as Jesse’s character is one who has a certain air of erraticism and unusualness about him. While many young minds might have similar thoughts at a developing age, what sets Jesse apart is that he does not scare or shy away from expressing his thoughts. Through their conversations, which are sometimes childishly banal as well, Jesse keeps surprising Johnny with sudden questions about his own lost love, his relationship with his sister and Jesse’s mother, Viv, and why they don’t act like normal brothers and sisters. Johnny, who already carries a lot of repentance, grief, and confusion about his own life, is jolted even more, and in the process, thinks and realizes more about himself.

It is the constant evolution of these two characters with respect to each other that makes the film shine bright. Brilliant performances by all the actors, a clever and minimal style of filmmaking, a commendable edit which really gives the film a very apt pace, and an effective use of music, all add to the experience. Another strong but indirect presence felt in the film are the interviews of the kids and teenagers that Johnny and his small crew go around taking. Young and developing minds speak out on climate change, racism, intolerance and various other facets of life in the US and globally, but with a youthful hope and an often inspiring enigma. All this makes “C’mon C’mon” a beautiful film about the constant fall and rise in human connections, and the inexplicability of human existence in general.


C’mon C’mon is a 2021 Drama Film written and directed by Mike Mills. It stars Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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