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Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Gaby Hoffmann, Woody Norman, Scoot McNairy, Molly Webster, Jaboukie Young-White
OUR RATING: ★★★☆☆
A24 drama written and directed by Mike Mills. C’mon C’mon (2021) centers on Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix), a documentary filmmaker, who forges an unexpected bond with his young nephew, Jesse (Woody Norman), as they embark on a cross country trip.
Our Favorite Quotes:'Whatever you plan on happening, never happens. Stuff you would never think of happens. So you just have to come on. Come on, come on, come on, come on...' - Jesse (C'mon C'mon) Click To Tweet
Johnny: Okay, I’m going to ask you a series of questions, and there are no right or wrong answers. So when you think about the future, how do you imagine it’ll be? Like what will nature be like? How will your city change? Will families be the same? What will stay with you, and what will you forget? What scares you? What makes you angry? Do you feel lonely? What makes you happy?
Girl: I think adults always think they’re the boss, and they always got to be the boss of everything. And I think that some adults have that mindset where “I’m right and you’re wrong.”
Girl: America, it’s so much tragedy, and some people aren’t treated fairly, because of race, because of who they like, because of where they live, because of how much money they have. So I would want it to become a better place and people to know that just because someone isn’t like you doesn’t mean that they’re wrong, but then I’m not sure.
Viv: [over phone] It’s nice that you called.
Johnny: I didn’t know if I was going to call, or if you would, if no one would.
Viv: It’s a good day to talk. Maybe mom’s listening.
Johnny: Yeah, maybe.
Johnny: [over phone] How is Jesse?
Viv: He’s so good. He’s smart, and he’s so weird. He’s older, and he’s funny, and I don’t know. He’s a whole little person.
Viv: Are you ready for this?
Johnny: God, what?
Viv: [referring to Jesse] Brace yourself. There’s this little orphan who likes to come visit me. In fact, he will probably come visit you. And he likes to pretend that I have some dead children, and he asks me a lot of questions about what they did, so he can do those same things.
Johnny: That’s f***ed up.
Viv: Yeah. It’s really, it’s totally normal. All the kids do this.
Johnny: Your mom just left?
Jesse: Uh-huh. She said you might be a bit awkward.
Jesse: She said you might be a bit awkward. But you’ll get used to things.
Johnny: So when you think about the future, what do you imagine?
Jesse: I don’t want to.
Johnny: You don’t want to imagine what the future’s like?
Jesse: I don’t want to do the questions.
Jesse: My mom tells me stories. It can be fiction, or non-fiction.
Johnny: Oh, boy. I don’t know any stories. Can we just talk, and get to know each other?
Jesse: Why did she stop talking to you?
Johnny: We talk.
Jesse: No, you don’t.
Johnny: I mean, I don’t know.
Jesse: Did you used to talk a lot?
Viv: [referring to their parents] So easy for you. They made me feel like I was a crazy person again and again, and you just went along with it.
Johnny: You don’t exactly make it easy to help you.
Viv: Well, maybe, but I needed your help. Look, you’re losing a mom who adored you. She just did. And I’m losing one who never understood me.
Jesse: Why aren’t you married?
Johnny: I was with somebody for a long time, Louisa.
Jesse: Did you love her?
Johnny: I still do.
Jesse: Then why did you break up?
Johnny: I don’t know.
Johnny: [to Jesse] I don’t think it was my choice. I think you love each other, and then you still love each other, but find it hard to express that love to each other. And so then you look at each other, and you do this. And you go, “Oh.” You know, I mean, I hope you don’t have the experience, but you probably will. It’s alright, actually.
'Over the years, you will try to make sense of that happy, sad, full, empty, always shifting life you're in. And when the time comes to return to your star, it may be hard to say goodbye to that strangely beautiful world.' - Johnny Click To Tweet
Johnny: [recording] I read him The Wizard of Oz, kissed him on the head, and said good night. And he asked me, why am I not married. I didn’t tell him that I want to be, that I miss Louisa. I made it into a weird joke. Why did I do that?
Jesse: So should I call you like Papa, or Dad or just Johnny?
Johnny: You can call me whatever feels comfortable to you.
Jesse: I don’t know, it’s just I’m not used to being able to choose.
Johnny: Maybe we can just take this process slowly and see how it feels.
Johnny: Let me ask you a question. Why does everything have to be like this kind of weird, eccentric thing that you do?
Jesse: Because I like it.
Johnny: Yeah, but why not just do something normal? Like everything in your real life…
Jesse: What’s normal?
Johnny: Okay, fine. Good point.
Johnny: Never been to New York?
Jesse: Never ever been to New York.
Johnny: You don’t think all the like sunshine, and sand, and bodies is kind of boring?
Viv: Johnny, you don’t ask a nine year-old kid if they want go to New York before you ask their mother!
Johnny: Viv, I want to help. I want to help.
Viv: Jesus Christ!
Johnny: Listen to me. I’m trying to help you, and this is a way that I can help.
Viv: Well, that’s not helpful.
Johnny: [referring to what he loves about recording] And in a way it’s cool, because you get to keep these sounds, right? You keep it forever. You make like this mundane thing, like be immortal, and that’s cool and fun.
Roxanne: Do all your friends act like you?
Jesse: And that would be a big no.
Jesse: Do you have trouble expressing your emotion?
Johnny: Well, I’m feeling pretty frustrated right now.
Jesse: That’s good. Just sit down, you can let it all come out.
Jesse: [to Johnny] My friends don’t talk like me, because I don’t really have friends. I mostly hang out with adults.
Jesse: Can you tell me about mom when she was a little girl?
Johnny: [recording] I said, “She was cute.” He said…
Jesse: I heard about her boyfriends, and she ran away, and she got in trouble all the time. And I heard that she got an abortion.
Johnny: [recording] What the f*** do I say to that? I didn’t even know about it.
Jesse: Let me tell you how my mom puts me to sleep. Now, lay down.
Jesse: Rest your feet. Rest your legs. Rest your hands. Rest your arms.
Johnny: My mom would never do this.
Jesse: Rest your eyes. Rest your mouth. Rest your jaw. Rest your mind. No more thoughts tonight. No worries. Just stars in the sky.
Viv: [over phone, referring to Jesse] I’m not used to it. I f***ing hate it sometimes. I mean, I love him more than I can even understand. And that makes it even worse when I can barely stand to be in the same room with him, going on, and on, talking, talking relentlessly about nothing random nothingness, interrupting every thought I might have.
Johnny: Oh, God. And I know.
Viv: From making him lunch, and doing the dishes, from making lunch, and then doing the dishes, from making dinner, and then doing the dishes, from lunch, and then going grocery shopping. On, and on, and on, and on, he never stops. It’s a f***ing nightmare.
Viv: [over phone] Do you think I’m horrible now?
Johnny: No, no. I have so much sympathy.
Boy: So my fears would be like loneliness, and like, you know, just like people not understanding you, even though they’re there to understand you, and stuff like that. It’s just really scary, because it feels like you have nobody.
Girl: When people end up saying, “Oh, words don’t hurt,” it like it gets to me so bad. People will just judge you without even knowing. It’s like not even their fault that they don’t know. They probably just wasn’t raised like I am, knowing how to treat people, how not to treat people.
'Kids tend to think freely. Adults when they think, they think in a tight space.' (C'mon C'mon) Click To Tweet
Girl: I don’t like when everyone’s just in a stressed mindset, and they’re very closed
into themselves. They just don’t speak to each other, and they’re just like kind of hiding away from like real life.
Boy: I feel like people who try to express their emotions, like they would get a lot of hate. It happened like more in the 20th century. So instead of letting them be them, they wanted to oppose them in like bad horrible ways. But I feel like now you could
speak your feelings easier, but not easily.
Johnny: [to Jesse] You don’t need a song to brush your teeth to. The next thing you know, you’re going to need electronic stimuli for everything you do. You know, it’s important to just live in it, you know? Peace and quiet. Your generation is completely lost.
Johnny: [over phone] I’m sorry, it’s so ridiculous. Do you know I just said, you know, “You can’t have that toothbrush.” And I went around the corner for a second to grab toothpaste, and then he disappeared. So I’m running after him, trying to find him, and he jumps out, scares me. And, yeah. I got angry, and I yelled at him. I yelled at him.
Viv: It’s f***ing awful. I’ve done it. I know that look in those little eyes, it’s the worst. But it’s okay also. You know, you just have to explain to him that you were scared, and that’s why you yelled, and then you apologize, you know? He’s a person, you just be honest with him.
Viv: [over phone] This is not easy.
Johnny: No, I know. I know, it’s not.
Viv: Let me talk to him, and now I’ll yell at him.
Johnny: Okay. Alright, thank you for talking me down.
Jesse: [over phone] I was just joking around, he didn’t need to call you.
Viv: I know. I know you were. But you really scared him, Jesse, okay? You can’t do that.
Jesse: Mom, why are you taking his side?
Viv: I’m not on his side. Sweetie, there are no sides. But you have to listen to Johnny, okay? You’re staying at his house, he’s taking care of you.
Jesse: Why? Why is he taking care of me?
Viv: Sweetie, come on. Just be nice to Johnny.
Jesse: I don’t even know you. Why my mom let me come with you?
Johnny: Hey, man, come on. Jesse, you wanted to come.
Jesse: I didn’t really have a choice. She’s a horrible, horrible mom.
Johnny: I know you don’t really feel that way.
Jesse: My feelings are inside me. You don’t know what they are.
Johnny: Well, why do you think you’re here? Do you think that your mom really wants to be away from you? Really? She’s trying to help your dad.
Jesse: Well, why does he need help? What’s wrong with him?
Johnny: He just… Do you want to call her?
Jesse: [crying] I want my mom.
Johnny: Hey, I’m so sorry.
Johnny: [over phone, referring to Jesse] I thought I was helping, and somehow it got away from me. I don’t know even how. What does he know? Did he know? Does he know everything?
Viv: Yeah, he knows.
Johnny: I’m trying like to figure out how to talk to him, and so I’ll try to play along, in an indirect way, and like this is ridiculous. He wants to say something. I have to be open, and so I say, “Hey, man, I know you want to talk about something?” And, yeah, and I look at him like this, like real earnest.
Roxanne: Yeah, sincere.
Johnny: And then, he just is like dismissive, and makes me feel stupid, and then I feel crushed. I know it’s funny now, but when it happens, it’s frustrating.
Viv: [over phone] You let Johnny interview you yet?
Jesse: Oh, God, no.
Viv: That seems like a smart move. Too many questions with that guy, right? Not enough answers.
Jesse: Did you tell my mom to leave my dad when he first got sick? Did you?
Johnny: I told her to take care of herself.
Jesse: Blah, blah, blah.
Johnny: No, it’s not blah, blah, blah.
Jesse: It is.
Johnny: No, it’s not.
Jesse: It is.
Johnny: [to Jesse] There were many things that were done. And everybody said a lot of things, and there was a lot of concern. And sometimes we don’t completely understand why we’re doing the things that we’re doing, right? But I never did anything because I wanted to hurt your mom, or hurt your dad, or hurt you. I only wanted everything to be okay.
Jesse: Where did you go?
Johnny: I was right there!
Jesse: No, you weren’t!
Johnny: I was on the phone, and I turned around one second, and you were gone! Hey, listen, you can’t do that. You understand?
Jesse: You lost me!
Johnny: I didn’t lose you. I lost you?
Jesse: You did.
Johnny: Okay, okay. I lost you. I’m the worst uncle in the world!
Jesse: I don’t need you.
Johnny: You so need me.
Viv: [over phone] He can feel how f***ed up things are right now, okay? So in his little inarticulate kid way, he’s saying, “I’m feeling out of control right now. Can you handle it? Can you take care of me feeling this way? If I run away from you, if I hide from you, even if I jump on this bus, am I going to be okay?”
Johnny: Oh, I’m just like in this f***ing fantasy that, you know, I got everything under control, and, you know, I’ll be there. I’ll figure it out. I’ll get you snacks, and I’ll pack your bags, and we’ll go off. And I’m thinking of going, “I don’t know what the f*** I’m doing.”
Viv: Yeah. Yeah, welcome to my f***ing life. Nobody knows what they’re doing. Nobody knows what they’re doing with these kids. You just have to keep doing it.
Johnny: [recording] I don’t like feeling this, but I feel like he’s spoiled, or I am.
Jesse: I’m sorry. I’m sorry I hid. I’m sorry I ran onto the bus. I’m sorry, Johnny. I am sorry! I heard you talking on the phone. You can’t take care of me. I don’t want to go home. My mom is just going to be sad about my dad, and my dad’s not even there.
Johnny: [after they’ve said sorry to each other] Your mom does all this?
Jesse: Yeah, but she doesn’t have to read it from a stupid phone. Now, no more phone time for you. No more screen time.
Jesse: [referring to Viv] She says even though we love each other, she’ll never know everything about me, and I’ll never know everything about her. It’s just the way it is.
Johnny: So do you feel like adults understand what kids are going through?
Boy: I definitely think lots of moms do, because I think they do.
Johnny: Do you think that the world is fair?
Girl: No, nothing’s really that fair. There’s always going to be, like probably going to be more war, since there’s more things to fight about if you keep on building onto what’s in the past.
Jesse: I’m embarrassed.
Johnny: You’re embarrassed?
Jesse: That I cried.
Johnny: You’re embarrassed that you cried. Don’t be embarrassed.
Jesse: Because I don’t usually cry that much.
Johnny: [reading Star Child by Claire A. Nivola] To visit planet Earth, you will have to be born as a human child. At first, you will have to learn to use your new body, to move your arms and legs, to pull yourself upright. You will learn to walk, and run, to use your hands, to make sounds, and form words. Slowly, you will learn to take care of yourself. Here, it is still and peaceful, but there, the colors, sensations, and sounds will wash over you constantly. You will see so many living things, plants and animals, beyond imagining.
Johnny: [reading Star Child by Claire A. Nivola] Here, it is always the same, but there, everything is in motion, everything is always changing. You will be plunged into Earth’s river of time. There will be so much for you to learn, and so much for you to feel. Pleasure and fear, joy and disappointment, sadness and wonder. In your confusion and delight, you will forget where you came from. You will grow up, travel, and work. Perhaps, you’ll have children, even grandchildren of your own. Over the years, you will try to make sense of that happy, sad, full, empty, always shifting life you’re in. And when the time comes to return to your star, it may be hard to say goodbye to that strangely beautiful world.
Johnny: Damn this book.
Jesse: You’re crying.
Johnny: No, I’m not.
Jesse: Yes, you are. You’re definitely cry… See, you’re crying.
Johnny: It’s true. We forget everything.
Jesse: No, I don’t. You do. You’re stupid.
Johnny: Yeah, you’ll barely remember this. You’ll have like a few blurry memories of this whole trip.
Jesse: That’s very stupid. You’re just the stupidest stupid person. Ever. And like you have the lesser brain capacity than an actual deceased dead person.
Johnny: [over phone, to Viv] I’m going to tell you something that as a mother you won’t be able to understand, but you’re going to have to trust me. Taking care of him, and working at the same time is a little too much. It just takes a lot out of you.
Johnny: [over phone] Yeah, he’s been such a trouper, I feel like I owe him a good time. Even though, he keeps asking me why we don’t talk.
Viv: Oh. Cool. I like this kid. And what do you say?
Johnny: Apparently, some bulls**t.
Viv: He didn’t let you get away with that, did he?
Johnny: No. I just don’t know what to do anymore. I’ll probably run out of bulls**t I guess.
Viv: Well, you could tell him the truth.
Johnny: That sounds fun. Just tell your nine year-old the truth. Which part? That I messed up with you and Paul, that I got in the middle of something I didn’t understand? That part?
Viv: Oh, yeah. That’s good. That’s a really good start.
Johnny: Or was it when mom died, we got into all that weird s**t when mom died. That part?
Viv: You mean, like all that weird s**t of our entire lives? That stuff?
Johnny: Yeah, our entire lives. Or was it when Louisa left me, and everything just exploded.
Viv: You know, that’s the first time you’ve said that.
Johnny: Yeah, which part?
Viv: All of it.
Johnny: Do you think we’re alike?
Jesse: God, no.
Johnny: Yeah, we are. We are. We are.
Jesse: No, we are not.
Jesse: [recording, pretending to be Johnny] “Have you ever thought about the future?” Yeah. Whatever you plan on happening, never happens. Stuff you would never think of happens. So you just have to, you have to come on. Come on, come on, come on, come on.
Jesse: [after finding out that Viv is coming to take him home] I’m fine!
Johnny: I’m not fine, and that’s a totally reasonable response! Come on, man. Yeah.
Jesse: I’m not fine!
Jesse: And that is a totally reasonable response!
Johnny: This is f***ed up, and that makes sense!
Jesse: This is f***ed up, and that makes sense!
Johnny: How could this being so f***ed up make sense?
Jesse: It’s f***ed!
Johnny: [to Jesse, after they’ve both yelled] Are you laughing or crying? I can’t tell. I want to have the appropriate reaction.
Jesse: Do you think I’m going to be like my dad when I’m older?
Johnny: I think you have it better, Jesse.
Johnny: Because you are just, I don’t know. You know yourself more. You’re able to like express yourself and your feeling. That’s what your mom taught you. So you are way ahead of the game, believe me. Means you’re looking better.
Jesse: Lots of blah, blah, blah.
Jesse: Be funny, comma, when you can, period.
Johnny: What’s that?
Jesse: My dad used to say that to me.
Johnny: That’s funny.
Jesse: [as Johnny listens to the recording] Johnny is a bit strange. He’s really fun. He makes me laugh. He’s really funny when he wrestles. He might be my best friend, because he only has two friends. But he might be my best friend. I don’t know.
Johnny: [on tape] Hey, Jesse, this is Mozart, your intense, and overly emotional uncle. When I woke up, you were blaring crazy opera music. I was surprised that your mom had left, but you didn’t seem bothered about it. You just pretty much accepted me. I showed you my recorder, but you didn’t want to be interviewed. You recorded the beach, the sounds of the city. I had to go back to New York, and I asked you to come with me, and you just said, “I’d love that.” And you couldn’t sleep, and you were just talking a mile a minute, and you had so many things to say, and what about approaches, and how to record. And I could never actually stop you, and then I kept trying, and I wish I wouldn’t have. Now I want to hear all of your crazy thoughts and cool ideas.
Johnny: [recording] And then we were in bed, you asked,
Jesse: Are you going to remember any of this?
Johnny: Maybe. And that’s like our awesome sleepovers.
Jesse: And you said you won’t remember it.
Johnny: No, I said, “You won’t remember it.” I’ll remember it.
Jesse: I won’t remember?
Johnny: I said, “I hope you do.” And you got so upset, and I said, “I’ll remind you
Johnny: [credits lines] Do you think it’s easy to understand your feelings? Like, do you have access to what you feel or…
Boy: The only thing that I do have is that I know that I’m safe.
Johnny: That’s beautiful. What makes you feel safe?
Boy: I’m in a home where people care about me. And I have friends that care about me, and everything like that.
Sunni: If you had this superpower, what would you do? What would it be?
Girl: I don’t know. I don’t think I would ever like use a superpower. I think I would just be me. Like, me is my superpower. And like I use it to help people, and use it in ways that have never been done before.
Johnny: Do you ever think about what happens after you die?
Girl: Even though like the scientific thing to say is that we don’t think at all, our bodies decompose, and like life continues on without us. But why would we be made to just to like die? There’s probably not a reason, but there might be a reason behind it. Somehow, I don’t know. I’m not sure.
Boy: Kids tend to think freely. Adults when they think, they think in a tight space.
Johnny: What do you hope that you really remember about your mom and your dad?
Girl: That they were always there for me, that they always love me.
Johnny: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Boy: The ability to bend space and time.
Girl: Sit down, and close your eyes, and try to find yourself. Because I feel like that’s what you really have to do, is to know what you want. Like, find a way that you feel comfortable finding yourself. You know, you got to find to find.