Jakob Sanchez’s review published on Letterboxd:
I cannot separate my love for Mike Mills' two most recent films without thinking of where they were in my life.
When I saw 20th Century Women, I was a wide-eyed 18-year-old theater student living in a shitty dorm room, trying to watch as many movies as I could now that I had a laptop with access to 123movies, watching cam rips of the Oscar nominees I had wanted to see. Even with the crappy quality of 20th Century Women, I felt floored by it, I felt like this was a movie for me, perfectly intersecting my interests at the time (late '70s alt music) with what I didn't know my interests would be (slice-of-life cinema). The perfect film for that time in my life.
When I watch C'mon C'mon, I am 23 years old, I now work in a theater, I still live with my family, and this film made me think about my brother. A sensitive, kind 12-year-old kid who already thinks so much about the world, almost as much as Jesse. He has these funny, quirky little bits and can play practical jokes when it is clearly not the time for them. I've gotten too angry at him before when he's just fooling around and when I should have just been happy that he feels comfortable enough to fool around and play games.
Johnny is alone, his mother is gone, his relationship with his sister, while stable, is strained, the relationship he was in has been called off, and Phoenix beautifully carries this melancholic aura through his performance, making the character feel fully complete. A character Phoenix was born to play, his performance reminds us why he is one of our greatest American actors.
For a film with such a bleak lead character, who has an occupation of talking to kids of what they think is going to happen in the future, hope echoes all throughout C’mon C’mon. The black and white look of the film achieves a sort of paradoxical feeling, one of comfort, due to the relaxing, beautiful nature of cities like New York shown in black and white photography, and one of hopelessness as the lack of color perfectly shows Johnny’s worldview. But the look of the film also has that comfort because of the love that is now in Johnny’s life, that being for his sister and his nephew.
I’ll eventually have so much more to say about this film when I eventually see it the same amount of times as I did 20th Century Women, but this is no doubt my favorite film of 2021 so far, Mills is a filmmaker with so much compassion and love for the people around him, and explores said love and compassion expertly in his films. Anytime I watch them, I just have to stop and remind myself that I am here, and I am grateful for the good things in my life. I cherish his work forever.