Courtesy Netflix

The fourth feature from indie director Mike Mills, C’mon C’mon tells the story of radio journalist Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) who, after a family emergency, is left in charge of his precocious nephew Jesse (Woody Norman). As the pair travel across the country Johnny conducts a series of interviews with young people, investigating their thoughts and feelings about what the future holds for them.

Mills’s film is broad yet personal, touching on a range of relationships as the single and childless Johnny attempts to navigate his nuanced relationship with both his nephew and his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffmann), which has largely been severed due to differing opinions in the past of how to care for their mother, who is suffering from dementia. For her part Viv is struggling to balance her own estranged relationship with Jesse’s father Paul (Scoot McNairy), who recently moved to a new city and struggles with his mental state, and her young son, who has a growing understanding of his family’s fragile state.

While the complex range of emotional strain in C’mon C’mon could overwhelm a less adept filmmaker, the chemistry of Mills’s cast is so compelling that it carries the film above the weight of its more navel-gazing moments. Phoenix and Norman share much of the screen time and share an especially mesmerizing bond. And for their part, acting as a separate film within a film, the vérité interviews make for an engaging documentary as the musings of kids from across the spectrum of American life provide a thoughtful companion to Jesse’s own coming-of-age story. R, 108 min.

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