Endearing and emotionally charged
Out of all the films that have been released this year and I have seen so far there has been none that I have thought about more than C’mon C’mon. For being so seemingly innocent and simplistic on the outside it’s a film I haven’t been able to shake off. After seeing it twice now I can confidently say it’s one of my favourites of the year and even of all time. C’mon C’mon is a film about documentary filmmaker Johnny who looks after his nephew for an extended period of time while his sister struggles to get her husband settled into a hospital due to his series of drug induced manic episodes. C’mon C’mon is a somber reflection on the human condition, showing the inescapable effect of time through Johnny and Jesse’s characters and their respective experiences. Showing their budding relationship and the realistic disappointments that follow the jaded father figures efforts to understand his nephew as well as the many young people he interviews for his upcoming documentary.
The effort on a filmmaking front is incredibly strong boasting mesmerising black and white photography, sharp editing that concisely transports the viewer from the multiple city spanning locales, accompanied by incredibly strong performances, as expected from Phoenix but even more unexpected from Woody Norman who does the unthinkable and makes a child character not only believable but at points likable. The way Jesse and Johnny are written lends a genuine sense of realism. Be it the accurate depiction of an energetic child with access to the modern internet who regularly discusses ‘SCP’s’ and his obscure interests with an enthusiastic passion or the sympathetic nuance Johnny is written with. The characters and the bonds they share in C’mon C’mon are priceless, authentic and heartwarming.
The film can primarily be described as an examination of time through the connection contrast in the past and present, exciting childhood and stilted adult living. It’s 2 leads; Johnny and Jessie both represent 2 different periods of being. Juvenile children experiencing the confusing trials and tribulations of an unpredictable childhood during a period in time of unprecedented progress, a time that will be defined for both it’s inspiring possibilities as well as it’s oppressive zeitgeist of nihilism. And Matured adulthood which is confined to the rigorous grind of routinely duties, obligations and the monotonous restrictions of responsibility. These 2 contrasting persons in Jesse and Johnny are where the film is able to flex it’s sentimental and profound meaning as it explores the nature of these abridged generations and their respective struggles, joys and nuances interpreting the dichotomy of growing up in vibrant detail. It asks the viewer to question their own experiences and relationships in a subtly suggestive and emotionally touching manner. It’s impossible not to be caught up in the endearing atmosphere of C’mon C’mon and not be enraptured by the parting words Johnny leaves his nephew with in the closing moments. C’mon C’mon is a film about appreciating the time we have with the people we care for, allowing ourselves to make the most of our time by being as open and free as individuals as we can. Despite childhood being a footnote in our long complex lives it urges us to look back fondly on the small moments that make us who we are.
Establishing shots of parks, buildings and street corners look dated in the clean monochrome stillness. The omnipentint threat of decay and ruin that future generations will be left with is always present in the words of the cutaway interviews. Always hanging in the background like an ominous premonition or perhaps a hopeful prophecy for the future depending on who you ask. Which is wrong? Which is right? Who knows. As Jesse said “you’ve just gotta Come on”. The film doesn’t dwell on the idea for long enough for it to become a concern, it instead focuses on the comparatively trivial dilemmas of family living. Fighting over toothbrushes at a pharmacy, getting lost in a crowded city or lashing out in confusion with indirect frustrations before winning back good favour with a play wrestling match. C’mon C’mon understands the dynamics of family bonds, what makes them strong and the achilles heel that fails them as it portrays the natural intimacy of the family in vivid and heartwarming detail.
Art as a concept slips in between every crevice of C’mon Cmon. An accompanying overture that assists the film’s core themes, a vehicle through which Johnny and Jesses appreciation for their passions are conveyed and the steady progression of their relationship is communicated. A sweeping symphony overwhelms the senses on the morning Jesse and Johnny are first alone and becoming acquainted, perfectly conveying the dizzying overload of thoughts and feelings a child feels when confronted by the expectation to form a new relationship with an estranged family member. A gentle piano solo gently juxtaposes the grim reality of caring for a demented parent in their final days with the ensuing arguments, bickering and mean spirited comments that follow between family members. Or my favourite example; Claire de lune. A piece synonymous with a solo piano, a quiet reflection of a lonesome pianist’s solitude through music now brought to life by a gentle, comforting woodwind group. The aforementioned imagery of music and art culminating in the perfect visage of a quartet representing a familial relationship bonded and elegantly soothing in the deepseed understanding and care the 2 now share for each other.
More obvious is the frequent use of poems, essays and bedtime stories used to directly relate ideas of parenthood, empathy or childhood in a poetically relevant manner.
“I’ll Remind you”
The world is an unnaturally apathetic creature, as much as we try to convince ourselves that the future will be brighter and lives will improve, that sadly just isn’t the case most of the time. Childhood is a point of time we only really appreciate when it’s over. It’s the point in our lives when we’re most free, able to do what we want express ourselves, discover who we want to be without the burdensome weight of societal pressures, a time before our understanding and wisdom becomes detrimental and we observe our surrounding in a more cynical light failing to appreciate the lighter moments of simplistic bliss. It gets lost in the complex moving stations of adulthood and adolescence as we stop discovering who we want to be, stop seeking answers to questions ourselves and become content with the person we have become, good or bad. We stop observing the world with juvenile perceptions and instead aim to understand or control it to no avail just as Johnny starts the film doing. Haphazardly questioning an unseen abyss to answers to life’s biggest questions and being met with silence.
However C’mon C’mon exists within the small moments that do make living seem less lonely and the world less apathetic. A vital time of development and growth that Johnny is able to share and shape with his nephew as he reminisces on the life he’s lived. Even looking ahead to the future Jesse will go on to shape. For however confusing or daunting growing up will be, despite how Jesse might change or forget of these small precious moments Johnny will be there for him ready to remind him of the precious time they shared and the lessons they imparted on each other.
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