starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scoot McNairy, Gaby Hoffmann, Jaboukie Young-White
written and directed by Mike Mills
by Walter Chaw It takes a certain level of courage to make a movie like Mike Mills's C'mon C'mon, in which at least one, possibly two of the three main characters are so profoundly irritating it would be cathartic to see them shocked into compliant conformity. But that's exactly what you shouldn't do. It's a film about mining difficult conversations, asking the right questions and listening to the answers, practicing empathy when it's absolutely the riskiest thing to do, i.e., when the person you're trying to empathize with is smart, slippery, and able to push all of your buttons. Relationships, in other words--intimate ones with family where between platitudes and comfortable silences, there can erupt withering indictments and unresolved grievances. I love Mills's Beginners and 20th Century Women because of their essential kindness, how Mills writes dialogue that's searching without being grating, honest without being cruel. His characters are looking for the right way to do things, the elegant thing to say at the moment of crisis, but they're thwarted by unexpected developments and circumstances beyond their control. His films are about navigating choppy waters with only the love of your family to guide you, and they're beautiful.