The comedy-drama film “Don’t Make Me Go” has enough emotional prowess, presented bit by bit with subtle restraint, until its questionable decisions at the end. Starring John Cho and Mia Isaac in the lead roles, the film presents the story of a father and his teenage daughter who try to bond with each other over a road trip as the father learns of his terminal disease. As the two learn about their little personal secrets and accept each other beyond their major flaws, “Don’t Make Me Go” goes really well for most of the first part, gradually building a sense of sympathy towards the father, until it completely turns it over at the end in a way that does more harm than good.
‘Don’t Make Me Go’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
A young girl’s voice at the very beginning warns viewers that they might not like how this story ends, but they might like the story as a whole. Max Park is a middle-aged man and single father to a teenage girl, Wally, who is at the age of exciting exploration. Wally is romantically interested in her high school classmate Glenn, and despite the boy also indulging in such interests, they are yet to be an “official” couple. Wally goes over to see Glenn play soccer one day, and she even steps into the role of a goalkeeper when the team falls short of players. After her impressive performance, Glenn kisses her on the cheek, but Wally faints and falls to the ground. Everyone else, and she, too, thinks that it might have been a reaction to getting kissed by the boy she likes, and she does not pay much heed to it. Glenn invites her to his house for a party that night, but Wally knows that she needs to figure out some way to convince his friendly but protective father. Using the age-old excuse of staying over at the house of the best friend, in this case, Sandra, Wally gets permission to stay out of the house and goes over to Glenn’s. After having a few drinks, Glenn tries to get intimate with Wally, but she knows better than to trust someone who has been shying away from making any commitment, and ultimately decides to leave the party before anything unwanted happens. She knows that her father would be very mad at her if he got to know, so she calls up Sandra’s mother, Tammy, to drive her home. The woman quickly arrives and helps Wally out, but she has also, by now, called Max and told him everything. Max is indeed angry at his daughter for lying to him, but her claims of maturely leaving the place before anything bad happened fall on deaf ears. While Max wanted to indirectly tell his daughter that she should be comfortable calling him first no matter what situation she is in, what gets conveyed instead is that Wally is grounded for three weeks.
Max Park, on the other hand, was often seen suffering from a terrible headache, the ringing effect of which is even heard by viewers, and he underwent an MRI scan for it. When the results are out, Max shockingly finds out from his doctor that he has a bone tumor very close to the brain that could be fatal if not surgically removed. If he let things be, then Max would have maybe close to a year to live, while the surgery itself has only a 20% chance of completely healing him and could very well kill him instead. Scared to take any chance at a fatal surgery, Max shakily decides not to go through it and instead live his time out. The man’s personal life revolved mostly around his professional space, as an insurance agent, and his young daughter, as his ex-wife Nicole has been estranged from the family for a very long time. He does often go out on dates, but none of them seem to lead him to a relationship, except for the woman he has recently been seeing, called Annie. However, with the realization that he only has a year to prepare for his daughter’s life and also to spend time with her, Max decides to attend his college reunion party and take Wally along. Although the daughter is unwilling to go because she finds the plan lame, like any teenager would, Max’s promise to teach her how to drive on the way convinces her, and the father-daughter duo set out on a long drive to New Orleans.
What Is Max’s Real Intention In Taking This Trip, And How Does This Plan Play Out?
Although Max does not tell Wally anything about this, his main intention in taking his daughter to the reunion party is to try and make her meet with her estranged mother, Nicole. His and Nicole’s marriage had ended because of Nicole’s affair with Dale Angelo, who was Max’s close friend from college. Knowing that Dale would most definitely attend the reunion, Max tries to get in touch with him so that he can talk to Nicole (Dale and Nicole had married), but there is no response from the other side. On their way, Max teaches Wally to drive, which gets quite stressful at first as the young girl struggles to learn the ropes of maintaining speed on a highway. They take their first stop at New Mexico, where Max learns that Wally and Glenn are in a sort of unsaid relationship, and Wally is now anxious because he hasn’t tried to get in touch with her yet. Although Max often keeps telling his daughter that Glenn is not a good influence to be around, he understands her young mind as well, and they spend a fun evening at a local casino, where Max even wins some money by betting. Next, they drive to Texas and stop at another hotel where the boy at the reception, Rusty, seems to pay more attention to Wally than her father. By this time, Glenn has texted the girl, saying that he had been spending time with his ex-girlfriend, and this makes Wally feel strange and anxious even more. Late into the night, while Max is asleep, she slips out of their room and joins Rusty and his friends for some drinks and a local party at a farmhouse. Wally tries drinking beer from a barrel while being held upside down, as a party game, but quickly falls sick from it. Rusty seems to help her out, and then, after she feels better, the two climb up a small tower and stare at shooting stars while having beer. At one point, Wally closes in for a kiss, but Rusty pulls away and then explains how he is committed to his girlfriend, who is away for her studies. The two get over the awkwardness quickly and keep chatting as friends, and Wally even falls asleep there. Max wakes up the next morning all alone, panics, and tracks his daughter down with the help of locals; and after a lot of reprimanding, the two drive away.
After arriving in New Orleans, Max and Wally go to the reunion party, where they meet with Max’s best friend Guy and his partner, Samuel. Wally learns from his friends that her father used to be a really good singer back in his days, and even had the potential to be in a band, and she is excited to hear more. Meanwhile, Max nervously looks around for Dale and Nicole, and when he finally spots Dale alone, he goes up and asks him about his wife. Dale now reveals that he has been divorced from Nicole for some time now, and the man also tries to get back on good terms with his college friend, but to no avail. Max finds out information about Nicole’s current address in Florida, and as Dale tries to instigate him about their past, the two get into a fist-fight that has to be broken off by other people. At the end of the night, Wally gets to know of her father’s true intentions of bringing her along, and she now asks more about their relationship. Max admits that they had a break-up because of Nicole’s affair, but the reason for that was that Max himself had been cheating on her from earlier. Wally is understandably furious at her father, but then she also gradually learns to let it go as her father was already very apologetic and admitting of his past mistakes. The two make it up again, and on their way to Tampa, Max takes her dancing one night, as he expresses that he would want to dance with his daughter before she is married off. While Wally jokingly says that he still has a long time to live before something like that happens, Max’s eyes softly glisten as he knows well enough that he does not have all that time. It is in these small, subtle moments that “Don’t Make Me Go” really produces an emotional effect. Finally, they track down Nicole, and Max goes to have a word with her first before taking Wally to meet her. Nicole, however, denies to meet her daughter, saying that she is in a really bad situation at the moment. Max learns that she has recently become a mother for the second time, and she wants to invest all her time and effort in her baby. It is not that Nicole heartlessly wants to deny Wally any form of motherhood, but she cannot afford to do so at the time. Nicole looks economically (and maybe even health-wise) worse than the Parks, and with the emergence of her ex-husband suddenly at her doorstep, she avoids taking any more added responsibility. Wally is, of course, extremely hurt and livid at her biological mother’s decision, for she had been very excited to meet her, and all this rage bursts upon Max the next morning when she says that he has been dragging her along only to fulfill his own personal wishes.
In a heated moment of disagreement, Max finally reveals to Wally of his terrible health situation, and the daughter quite obviously reacts very badly to hearing that her father, the only family that she has, is going to pass away in a year or so. The girl is even angrier at her father for hiding such important and valuable information from her for all this time, and she takes their car from the garage and drives away. Max manages to enter the car just in time, and he tries to calm Wally down, but she continues to express her anger and fear through reckless driving. They finally come to a stop when she rams the car into another at a traffic signal, and she runs out of it. As Max catches up to her, she confronts him about hiding his health and also points out how silly and insensible it is to avoid a surgery that has at least a 20% chance of healing him, as opposed to letting the tumor grow and most definitely kill him. She mentions how Max has always tried to shy away from any risky decision, even in his own life, as he chose to give up a potential career in music to become an insurance agent, and urges him to take a chance with his life. It is with her support that Max decides to opt for the surgery, and he grows close to Annie with time, too, despite her earlier being skeptical about being in a relationship. Finally, in a good mood, Max and Wally celebrate that night at a local club, where Max takes the stage and sings along to karaoke music. As Wally excitedly keeps cheering her father on, her vision gets all blurry, and she suddenly faints and falls to the ground.
‘Don’t Make Me Go’ Ending Explained: What Happens To Wally?
The young girl’s voice from the beginning of the film returns now, and she says that this was exactly why she felt audiences would not like the film’s ending. In a shocking turn of events, it is revealed that Wally has passed away, and the voice of Wally herself explains what has happened to her. She had been suffering from a heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated. Wally did show symptoms for some time, as she had fainted earlier too, and used to have a racing heart and also sudden breaks of sweat, but never put much care or thought into it. As her body is laid to rest, all her friends and those of Max gather around to pay respect. Nicole also makes a tearful appearance, but Max perhaps has nothing much left to say to her anymore. It is with Guy’s close support and, more importantly, Wally’s loving memories that Max goes ahead with the surgery, and successfully recovers from his disease. A year later, he and Annie are seen moving in together, and the couple take a long drive to see shooting stars, something that Wally had told her father that she wanted to do with him. As the end credits roll, Wally’s voice tells her dad that she very well knows that everything in the world is not about her, unlike what Max would often say to her earlier.
It is rather strange to see “Don’t Make Me Go” end in such an unpredictable and even bizarre manner, which honestly does mar the experience a bit. While it is not that Wally’s illness was not hinted at, the power and prowess of the film remained in building up sympathy and emotions for Max. A sudden change of subject to Wally perhaps does not work too well, and leaves a weirdly bad taste that is not really contemplative, as sad endings would want to be, but rather forcefully emotional. Despite the ending, though, “Don’t Make Me Go” is definitely worth a watch for some light-hearted drama experience, till it remains light-hearted, that is.
“Don’t Make Me Go” is a 2022 Drama Comedy film directed by Hannah Marks.