C’mon C’mon Review: Childlike Catharsis in a Dark and Anxious World

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The imminent threat of ecological collapse is quite inescapable. That it reveals itself spontaneously deadly floods in New York or a catastrophic oil spill off the California coast, utter devastation seems almost imminent. While the urgency of this crisis is indisputable, Mike Mills go! Go on maintains that there is always merit in maintaining optimism. While continuing to model his protagonists on members of his immediate family – in this case, his nine-year-old son (and that of his colleague Miranda July) – the director presents an image of sincere sentimentality rooted not in states of nostalgia or nostalgia. of lived experience previously occupied. , but rather a forward-looking hope for an ostensibly busy future.

A year after their mother’s death, radio journalist Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) reaches out to his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffmann) to remedy a recent miscommunication. While catching up, Viv reveals that her ex-husband Paul (Scoot McNairy) is in the middle of a bipolar episode in the Bay Area, and she feels compelled to go and convince him to seek hospital care. Johnny has only one question: who is going to watch his son Jesse (Woody Norman) while he is away? Although originally tasked with watching over his nephew for just a few days, extenuating circumstances led Jesse to accompany Johnny on a massive city-wide reporting project. Fittingly, the mission finds Johnny and his colleagues conducting audio interviews with children across the country, assessing their thoughts on matters of heart, mind, and soul – in particular, what are they thinking – they what the future will look like? Although he undertakes an intimate story about the often overlooked interiority and intelligence of American teenagers, Johnny finds himself utterly unsure of his ability to take on the role of guardian of his own parent.

A little like Beginners is directly inspired by the coming out of his father and 20th century women through the experiences of his mother and sister, go! Go on Also brings Mill’s own memories to the screen. This time, the cinematic catalyst was a simple bathtime conversation the director had with his son – a detail faithfully recreated in the film with a delicate, realistic touch. However, it’s hard to imagine the film’s success without the dynamic chemistry between Phoenix and Norman, the two perfectly playing out each other’s dialogue and an air of childish spontaneity permeating every interaction. Norman’s performance is a rarity in that it demonstrates obvious talent while preserving a childish playfulness that never seems overplayed. Hoffmann’s low-key performance is just as effective for the same reason, imbuing the role with a semblance of utterly modern millennial motherhood, endearing in its eccentricity. Even the ancillary elements of the film help imbue a more palpable sense of truth, like the casting of real-life WNYC Radiolab correspondent Molly Webster as one of Johnny’s colleagues or the beautiful banality of the movie. recording of street sound, tone of the room and narration for a radio station. room.

While it is true that a multitude of films have already explored the clash between children and impromptu guardians when assimilating to their new roles (John Cassavetes’ Gloria, notably, as well as Lynne Ramsey’s 2017 film starring Phoenix You ain’t never really been there), go! Go on differs from its predecessors in maintaining the innate innocence of the children involved. There never comes a time when Jesse or any of the young subjects in the interview are completely exposed to the meanness of the world, but that’s not due to their own naivety. The film is as much about how the rearing of children forever changes an adult’s mundane outlook as it is about the unpretentious thoughtfulness of young people. Even when confronted with questions about an increasingly uncertain global landscape and complex inner thoughts, it is explicitly clear that children experience “real world” anxieties that adults are particularly quick to dismiss, though. ‘they probably feel the same way themselves.

In the technical sense, go! Go on is also extremely effective in using the sonic intricacies of audio journalism. Johnny introduces rudimentary concepts such as microphone gain, audio levels, and speaking distance to Jesse, who grabs it with childish ease and intuition, and whose frenzied audio recordings end up on Johnny’s tape alongside Johnny. ‘formal interviews – a taped reminder of Johnny’s tangible investment in the well-being of the next generation. The score by twin brothers Bryce and Aaron Dessner of The National (for whom Mills has shot music videos before) is also stunning in its minimal range, never eclipsing the soundscape of bustling city noise and quiet residential blocks captured in each city visited by the team.

Although the central radio play that Johnny and his colleagues gradually build up over the course of the film is at first depressing in its assertion of awareness of how well young people are aware of the perils of the world that await them as adults, it is also heartbreaking and hopeful in her honesty. Almost none of the interviewees perceive the future as completely devoid of opportunities for improvement – and if at least some kids really believe that things can change for their generation, wouldn’t dismissing that tender optimism be exactly the same brand of condescension that many kids express their frustration with? Especially when the presence of material problems in the lives of many of these children is more relevant – incarcerated parents, emotional neglect, racism – the end of humanity seems to be the least of their problems.

In this sense, the next generation needs more than intangible wishes and condescending pity. Instead, they need strong interpersonal support, deeper emotional understanding, and advocacy from the adults in their lives – overall, to be taken much more seriously than they do. currently are. By amplifying the diverse voices of American children through the film’s Radio Truth subplot, go! Go on proves kids have some pretty insightful advice to give, if only we would listen.

Director: Mike Mills
Writer: Mike Mills
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Gaby Hoffmann, Woody Norman, Scoot McNairy, Jaboukie Young-White, Molly Webster
Release date: November 19, 2021 (A24)


Natalia Keogan is a freelance screenwriter based in Queens, New York. His work has been featured in Paste Magazine, Blood Knife Magazine, and Filmmaker Magazine, among others. Find her on Twitter @nataliakeogan


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