A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Movie is about lots of things, but one of the clearest messages is honesty. Conflict builds up whenever anyone is being deceitful or petty or hiding something, but after arguing/talking and communicating, everything becomes better.
Positive Role Models
Johnny isn't exactly a role model; he's prone to mistakes and sometimes anger, but he's shown as a man who's trying his best and willing to learn. His radio program -- in which he asks kids questions and listens to the answers -- also makes him a little heroic.
Main characters are all White. In a supporting role, Viv is an interesting, three-dimensional woman, with plenty of interesting thoughts and strengths. Kids being interviewed for the radio show represent a wide cross-section of races, cultures, genders, though each is seen only for brief moments.
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Violence & Scariness
Dialogue about death of a mother, images of mother lying in sickbed. Arguing. Scenes of distress involving potentially lost child. A character must remove shoelaces after checking into clinic (to prevent their use for suicide). Dialogue about Hurricane Katrina and death.
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Several uses of "f--k" and "f--king," plus "s--t," "bulls--t," "ass," "damn," "d--k," "goddamn," and "God, no!"
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that C'mon C'mon is a black-and-white drama about a radio journalist named Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) who agrees to look after his precocious 9-year-old nephew, Jesse (Woody Norman). It's a deeply honest, wonderfully thoughtful movie about kids in an adult world that's more about the journey than the destination. Language is the biggest issue, with several uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "ass," "damn," "d--k," etc. Jesse mentions someone who "got an abortion." Characters argue, and there are scenes of distress when the nephew disappears. People talk about the death of a mother, and there are scenes of her sickbed. Children from New Orleans discuss Hurricane Katrina, and death is mentioned. A man who checks into a clinic must remove his shoelaces so that there's no possibility of them being used for suicide. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
It may not sound like much, but Mike Mills' drama is a rare mix of touching emotional transparency and a thoughtful, intuitive, essay-like structure as it examines how kids fit into the world. Certainly there's a formulaic aspect to the bare-bones plot -- a grumpy single man goes on a road trip with a cheeky, precocious kid (with moptop hair), both of them emerging as better people -- but C'mon C'mon isn't formulaic in the slightest. Shot in dreamy black-and-white, the movie takes its time. There's no destination here, only the journey. Johnny (Phoenix gives his tenderest, most open-hearted performance since Her) coaxes moving answers from the children he interviews, but how to apply that information to life? And how to use it to understand his relationship with Jesse?
In an early scene, Jesse talks about "fungus tubes" that connect everything in nature, and that's a decent metaphor for the movie. There's nothing to do but go moment by moment, as Jesse asks pointed questions, throws tantrums, runs off, plays lovingly, cuddles, and imagines. Johnny recaps and analyzes things in lovely phone calls to his sister, and then each little "chapter" is capped with a reading from some kind of nonfiction essay. (Johnny's personal journals also provide breaks.) The excellent performances -- including those by Norman and Hoffman -- and Mills' fearless devotion to honesty give C'mon C'mon a life pulse. Indeed, the movie is so much like tangled, beautiful memories that it may be difficult to recall the movie in order.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.