A24 Film ‘C’mon C’mon’ Sheds Light on Parenthood and The Child Mind


Photo by Julieta Cervantes

By Kate Hernandez

Director and Writer Mike Mills presented his first black and white film “C’mon C’mon” which featured Joaquin Phoenix and Woody Norman.

The film portrayed the true essence of parenthood with the stress and frustration a parent will go through, along with the understanding behind the minds of the younger generation.

Documentary Journalist Johnny, played by Joaquin Phoenix, travels around the world to interview groups of young children regarding their life stories and what they think about the future.

Johnny receives a call from his sister Viv, played by Gaby Hoffmann. She asks him if he’s able to look after her nine-year-old son Jesse while she assists her ex-husband who is struggling with mental illness.

The opening of the film featured Johnny interviewing multiple children. Each child presented different responses on what they think the future will hold. He interviews them individually to receive a better understanding of the world from the perspective of each child.

In a Q&A at the Landmark Theatre in Los Angeles, Mills brought to everyone’s attention that the interviews with children are actual interviews and not child actors, making the film so raw.

Johnny gets along with the children that he interviews very well and is very attentive towards the responses that they give. He also takes consent into consideration and states that if they don’t feel comfortable answering a question they can just say that they don’t want to answer it.

Although Johnny is seen as someone who understands children, when he looks after his nephew, Jesse, Johnny struggles to take care of him.

The difference between the children being interviewed and actually taking care of one is that Johnny only sees these children once for an interview and doesn’t have to worry about taking care of them afterward.

Image provided by A24
Image provided by A24

Johnny is able to go back home with the children not being his responsibility. That’s not the case with Jesse, he’s a part of his family.

Since Johnny doesn’t have any children of his own, taking care of Jesse was something that took time to get used to.

Young English actor, Woody Norman, portrayed the role of Jesse. Jesse is not like the ordinary nine-year-old. He has a very intellectual mind as he is interested in conspiracies.

As part of his interesting bedtime routine, Jesse would pretend to be an orphan that is being taken in by his mother Viv. She goes along with it as if she’s meeting him for the first time.

In the Q&A, Mills mentioned how he got the idea of this weird nighttime ritual from a friend’s child who would do the exact same thing and play as an orphan. Mills then implemented this nighttime ritual in the film since he found it interesting.

Over the course of time that Johnny takes care of Jesse, we can see how frustrated and agitated he becomes when trying to control Jesse when he won’t listen to him. In one scene, Jesse hides in a store as a joke while Johnny is on the phone.

Johnny begins to panic since he can’t find Jesse. Once he finds him, Johnny becomes upset and raises his voice at Jesse, leaving him hurt.

What’s so surreal about the scene is that parents have felt the same sense of panic when they can’t find their child.

Not only did Mills shed light on the minds of children, but he also represented the thoughts from within mothers. He included a voiceover in the film of Johnny reading a book “Mothers” by Jacqueline Rose.

The book featured a collection of essays from actual mothers and their struggles to provide enough for their children.

Throughout the movie, it’s fascinating to see this relationship grow between Johnny and Jesse. Although it was rocky at first, they began to build trust in each other, allowing themselves to open up about any emotion or feeling they keep inside.