C'mon C'mon (2021)
Having enjoyed Beginners and loved 20th Century Women I was ready to be cinematically massaged here. Mike Mills has quickly become a reliable and focused helm of any project he's attached to, so I was confident even before this started that I was in for a good time.
This is the first film I've seen starring Phoenix since Joker (I think he's only done one short film between this and the stellar performance he put on as Arthur Fleck) and if you weren't already aware of his vast and formidable range, then it becomes evident here very quickly. Mills' intimate black and white indie concentrates on the relationship between a radio journalist, Johnny (Phoenix) and his nephew Jesse, played by young English find, Woody Norman.
There is an element of 'from the mouths of babes' going on here in the interactions not only between Johnny and an inquisitive Jesse, but also in the interviews that Johnny is conducting for work with young adults in Detroit. It is clear without too much coaxing that Johnny is at something of a crossroads in his own life, dealing not least with his own grief and his relationships with his nearest and dearest, but is still enough of an amiable sponge to Jesse especially, to suggest that he needs what is obvious, even to a child, pointing out to him.
As I've already mentioned, I have a great deal of confidence in Mills' abilities, having yet to see him write and direct anything that wasn't very pleasing, if not sometimes outstanding and I'm wondering (as I often do) if my goodwill for a project could be affected by my appreciation of a filmmakers previous work. As a reviewer it would be important to be as impartial as possible and I try as hard as that to be sure that I'm not imparting my opinion on something other than what I am actually watching. This came to light for the first time when looking at some of Nolan's work after Memento was released, believing that the man could not put a foot wrong after creating something so extraordinary.
Suffice to say, that I'm not just waxing lyrical when I suggest that this is some of Mills' finest work, bar anything. His approach to the traps and trials of parenthood is sublime and although this is ostensibly a story about an 'Uncle' and his nephew, the relationship between Jesse and his mother is such that she relents through a weariness of spirit to enhance her sons' existence and experiences.
So she decides to let Johnny take Jesse with him to New York, which Jesse is thrilled about, having never been to the city before. The relationship blossoms in the Big Apple as Jesse is introduced to new, vibrant and creative people.
The performances from Phoenix and Norman are excellent and their relationship is magnetic. If there is indeed a script, then it is difficult to tell in these moments between the two of them that it is actually written on a page, as the conversations seem so incredibly natural and unaffected. The messages of becoming and the possibilities for the future seem to morph into existence with such an ease as to make it seem entirely natural. This applies to the excellent interviewees Johnny talks to, as if accentuating the feelings that Jesse is experiencing in his own world.
Touching, poignant and beautiful. Sometimes tragic and unfortunate, just like life, with all its quirks and foibles. If anything, this encourages the soul to do better and to appreciate things from a perspective more rarely wondered. Kids say the funniest things, that's true. Perhaps we should actually listen to them, I mean really listen, on occasion.