C’mon C’mon Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?


Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) is a radio journalist. He is currently busy with a big special project: a group of employees led by Johnny travels back and forth across America and records the children with whom she talks about their lives, fears, about how they see the future and themselves in this future.

Johnny is not in the best psychological state anyway, and then there are constant moving, monotonous, rather disgusting hotel rooms, and at some point, staying at another hotel in Detroit, Johnny dials the number of his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffman) in the evening ), with whom they did not communicate for a whole year after the death of their seriously and long ill mother.

Viv was obviously delighted by his call and said that her son Jesse (Woody Norman) has grown a lot in a year: he is already such a strange, but almost adult man. The sister also said that her husband Paul (Scoot McNairy) went to Oakland, where his mental disorder worsened, so Viv will have to go to him for a few days to find out how difficult the situation is and what can be done about it. At the same time, she does not know who to leave her son to, because it is objectively impossible to take Jesse there.

Johnny, who clearly wants to restore relations with his sister, volunteers to sit with his nephew, for which he goes to Los Angeles. Jesse did not recognize his uncle, he remembers him very poorly, but they quickly find a common language: two introverts are clearly easier with each other than an introvert and an extrovert.

For several days, Johnny lives at Viv’s house, and he and Jesse have fun and walk along the Santa Monica ocean beach, but Viv’s trip to Oakland is delayed: Paul needs professional medical help, so Viv tries to persuade her husband to go to the hospital.

Johnny can’t stay long, he needs to keep working, so he ended up making a deal with Viv that Jesse would go with him: they would fly first to New York and then to Louisiana. On the trip, they will have to communicate a lot, and both of them will have to learn and understand a lot about each other and about themselves.


Independent film director and music video director Michael Mills often drew inspiration from his childhood memories and his relatives to write the scripts for his films. The film “Beginners” was inspired by the director’s father, “Women of the 20th Century” – by his mother, and the new film “Kamon Kamon” is a kind of dedication to Michael Hopper’s son: at the time of writing the script, Hopper was nine years old, like Jesse in the picture.

The original title “C’mon C’mon” is an abbreviation of the phrase “you have to c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon” near the end of the film. ).

The picture was shot in black and white, which at first is somewhat surprising. Because there seems to be no prerequisites for using such a technique. We are talking about our days, the characters use modern smartphones, so why even have a black and white palette? It is clear why such paintings as “Mank”, “Artist”, “Roma”, “Cold War”, “Lighthouse” are black and white: there this is clearly due to the artistic task.

This is not obvious here, but, however, when using this approach, cinematographer Robbie Ryan achieves a very soft, low-contrast, as if enveloping picture, which emphasizes that it is not the visual effects that are important here, but the conversations of the main characters and the sounds that surround them.

Not without reason, on the very first day, when Johnny stays with his nephew, he gives Jesse his interview equipment – headphones and a highly focused microphone, the boy begins to listen to the sounds of the surrounding nature – the ocean, the beach, people – and begins to perceive it all in a completely different way: before that the sounds were just background, and now he’s concentrating on them. And there, during their trips, Jesse often puts on headphones and listens to what is happening around him through a microphone.

Joaquin Phoenix has a very difficult character here. Some critics and viewers say that his Johnny turned out to be some kind of “plush”, not real. But I strongly disagree with this! Johnny is such a big kid. He, too, is a little lost in this world, like the kids he interviews and like his nephew. Johnny broke up with his girlfriend, which he went through very hard, he was clearly very traumatized by the illness and death of his mother, as well as the subsequent break in relations with his sister. And this is manifested in everything: in his manner of speaking, as if he was offended by something, in his youthful intonations, which do not really fit in with a man under fifty, and even in the way he moves.

He himself helps to understand something in this life of Jesse, but Jesse voluntarily or involuntarily helps Johnny understand himself, explain some important things to himself, and most importantly, understand that you should not be ashamed of yourself, your feelings and emotions, do not you should be afraid to remember the past or, conversely, to live in this past, but you need to move forward, come on, come on, come on!

So Phoenix’s Johnny, in my opinion, turned out to be very vital and completely real, not fake. It is a great art to play it so softly, completely in semitones, and few other actors would be capable of it at all.

The real discovery of this picture is the ten-year-old Woody Norman, who played Jesse. I had not heard anything about him before, and the young actor, by the way, already has thirteen films and series in his luggage. Kamon Kamon is the first movie where he practically has a lead role and Woody is absolutely amazing. Children, especially very young ones, are very difficult to shoot in such a way that they look natural and not fake.

Many American directors know how to do this – there were many examples. However, even against their background, Woody Norman demonstrates amazing organicity, vitality and naturalness. He does not play in the frame, he lives in the frame, he lives in each of his dialogues or monologues. I was simply delighted with his game, well, it will be very interesting to see how his acting fate develops further. (By the way, Woody is British by birth, so he still had to seriously work on his pronunciation.)

I really liked Gaby Hoffman as Viv. She doesn’t have much screen time here, in most episodes Viv just talks on the phone with Johnny or Jessie, but there is something about this actress that draws attention to her character: in my opinion, the role turned out to be very good and against the background excellent acting work of Woody Norman and Joaquin Phoenix Gaby was not lost.

Yes, this is a fairly typical indie movie, which is usually liked by critics and jury members of various festivals. However, indie cinema is very different. Sometimes it is terribly false and manipulative, and here, of course, you can immediately expect continuous delight from critics and viewers. And it happens – like this, like “Kamon Kamon”: low-key, low-key, purely colloquial. Major film awards ignored the picture almost completely, despite the presence in it of Joaquin Phoenix, who received an Oscar two years ago for the main male role in the film “Joker”. The only nomination from the top film awards is Woody Norman for Best Supporting Actor in the 2022 British BAFTA. But, however, all sorts of small regional awards, as well as awards from critics’ associations, the film was noticed, and it has 50 nominations and 13 awards.

“Kamon Kamon” – the picture is definitely not for everyone. Not everyone will like the black and white scale, not everyone will like the lack of sharp plot twists, not everyone will appreciate the game of Joaquin Phoenix, and in general, not everyone will want to listen to the conversations of a tired man with a ten-year-old boy for almost two hours.

But I really liked this movie. The atmosphere, the setting, the way it’s all shown, the way the characters interact with each other, and, of course, above all, the way it’s absolutely amazingly played. Because here it is not so much words that are very important, but intonations and emotions.

PS At the end, Jesse says that he is afraid to forget this trip of theirs when he becomes an adult, because it has become a very important part of his life. To which Johnny replies that if the boy forgets this, then he himself will definitely remind him of all this.

I don’t think I’ll quickly forget this movie myself. He left a very good aftertaste and is clearly remembered for a long time.

PPS Interviews with children, as far as I understood, were the most natural: no one wrote the text to them, they just answered the questions themselves.

Camon Camon / C’mon C’mon

Director: Michael Mills Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Woody Norman, Gaby Hoffmann, Scoot McNairy, Molly Webster, Jabook Young-White, Deborah Strange, Sunny Patterson, Jenny Eliscu, Mary Passeri

Worldwide gross: $4.2 million
Drama, USA, 2021, 109 min.

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