September 9, 2022 | CULTURE | By Frances Thyer | Illustration by Katherine Beard
The moment we begin to understand ourselves in relation to the world around us is the moment we begin to experience the spectrum of human emotions.
We become anxious the people closest to us may leave, frustrated that the places we love will change, and confused about why we think the way we do.
In the film “C’mon C’mon”, Mike Mill examines our relationships to people, places, and beliefs through the eyes of a radio-journalist and his nephew. The richness of this film comes from its characterization and emotional honesty, which allows children transitioning into this emotional awareness to candidly explain their own fears and joys. Moreover, the film is also about the older character Johnny working through his emotional inhibitions into the microphone of an audio recorder.
As characters young and old share their honest thoughts, we learn that growing up may not equate to an ability to handle the biggest emotions or a preparedness for the unknown. Because, as the young protagonist Jesse says, “whatever you plan on happening, never happens.”
An A24 film, “C’mon C’mon”takes on nuanced cinematic choices as is characteristic to the pioneering production company. The entire film is shown in soft black and white, alluding to the intimacy of the main characters’ relationship and the delicacy of all human connections.
As Johnny and Jesse begin to spend time together, we see Jesse playing with Johnny’s audio recorder. He turns the volume on the recorder up and down and the audience feels the experience as though we, too, were a child with surround sound headphones. Via creative approach to audio design, the scene feels both authentic and overwhelming — a feeling so often described in everyday life but so rarely translated onto the screen in a meaningful way.
Mill utilizes Johnny’s radio-journalism equipment in more ways than one in “C’mon C’mon”.
Throughout the film, Johnny travels around the country interviewing kids on their hopes and fears for their own future and that of the world. The audience sees the interviews being set up and the stark authenticity of Johnny’s relationships with the subjects. His softspoken tone is complemented by a subtle interjection of the shotgun microphone, as if Johnny was attempting to hear every word they say as consciously as possible.
It should be noted that Joaquin Phoenix, portraying Johnny, and Woody Norman, portraying Jesse, give both of their characters a three-dimensionality only accredited to great acting.
“C’mon C’mon”is a film about nothing and everything. It takes patience to enjoy, which ultimately may be the point; any relationship, whether between children, parents, friends, or strangers, requires a certain base level of understanding and compassion. As Jesse says, you just have to “c’mon, c’mon, c’mon…”.
“C’mon C’mon”is available for free with a Paramount+ or Showtime subscription.