Some home entertainment discs are great to own because their packaging is simply too great not to have it shine on the shelf. Others offer supplemental materials to keep you busy for hours. And then there are those that are crisp and clean without drawing attention to themselves. Lionsgate Home Entertainment doesn’t give the A24-released film, C’mon C’mon (2021), the royal treatment. Instead, they let the film speak for itself, and the Blu-ray just so happens to possess some A/V magic. Recommended!
Nobody can craft cinematic visual essays quite like filmmaker Mike Mills. Through being so deeply in touch with humanity and philosophy, he has a way of melding together so many ideas, questions and observations about how we live our lives and filters them through a powerful narrative about family. It’s no doubt that Mills pulls from his own life experiences with loss, grief and navigating the ever-shifting emotional and mental landscape within ourselves. That’s true of his 2010 drama Beginners and 2016’s 20th Century Women (a personal fave) — and it carries over into his latest stroke of poetic genius, C’mon C’mon.
C’mon C’mon stars a never-better Joaquin Phoenix as a radio journalist (yes, take that, Joker) who’s traveling across America to talk with children about their perspectives of the world. He asks them big existential questions, as if Mills is ditching a script to make a real documentary, and what we get is honest answers. (Something tells me he probably did take that approach.)
Phoenix’s character, Johnny, asks these kids (and us, really) what we will remember, what we are going to forget and what makes us connect. Each interview feels genuine and enlightening. From New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans, there’s so much beautiful insight from these young minds.
As Johnny is chasing knowledge across the nation, he’s paired up with his young nephew, Jesse (an equally as terrific Woody Norman). Jesse's single mother Viv (Gaby Hoffmann) is pulling a heavy load of responsibility. She’s trying to aid Jesse’s struggling father (Scoot McNairy), work to keep a roof over her family’s head and essentially brush her teeth while eating Oreos when taking care of her son. (Any parent can relate.) Johnny agrees to step in and take Jesse on his trip, which will challenge their thinking and how they will live their lives going forward.
C’mon C’mon is one of the most human stories of the past few years. Mills removes all the cinematic accouterment by using striking black-and-white photography to keep audiences centered on the characters, the stories told, and the poetic language of it all. It could be summed up in one scene featuring Jesse excitedly talking to his uncle about how trees communicate with each other through subterranean networks of fungi. It’s a scene that shows the brilliance of a child and how they can teach us so much because they're so full of wonder and optimism. After all, what is life without the need to connect? C’mon C’mon is a beautiful and human visual essay about connection and how mothers wear superhero capes. A lot can be learned and admired. Give it your time and witness the rewards.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The now-available Lionsgate Home Entertainment Blu-ray is coated in a cardboard slipcover sporting a lovely black-and-white image of Phoenix and Norman. The blue plastic within carries over the same look. A Digital HD copy of the film is also included.
The Blu-ray is presented with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.66:1. Shot on Arri Alexa Minis and Panavision Primo, C’mon C’mon features a gorgeous black-and-white high definition display. Lionsgate’s Blu-ray release reveals striking image clarity throughout, helping to accentuate the finest facial and clothing textures (such as distressed sweaters and Phoenix’s gray, curly locks and scruffy beard). Not to mention an abundance of beautiful, everyday elements like sofa fabric, antique stained glass windows, and smudges on car interiors and exteriors. Every scene springs to life with delightfully natural accuracy that allows the viewer to focus more on object details rather than both detail and color simultaneously.
Robbie Ryan’s camerawork is pleasing to drink in, too, with the deep blacks, natural shades of gray, and light gracing the screen. The image doesn’t suffer from any excess noise either. Some images appear a little soft at times, depending on how much depth is between the lens and the subject. However, it still dazzles quite a bit, even in the absence of color.
C’mon C’mon features a well-defined and immersive 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. There are only simple sound effects, with passing traffic, subway cars, and feet shuffling around spaces, adding greatly to the film's lifelike presence. A few other ambient effects, such as scattered patron chatter in Scarr’s Pizza restaurant and birds chirping outside hotel rooms, sonically paint on another layer of realism. However, what audibly stands out the most are the audio recordings with Johnny’s interview subjects. They are crystal clear and mix incredibly well with Aaron and Bryce Dessner’s emotionally rich musical score. Musical delivery is smooth, playing with neither aggressiveness or shallowness and finding a nice middle ground. Optional English and Spanish subtitles are available.
Like so many indie Blu-ray releases, Lionsgate only gives C’mon C’mon less than a fair share of extras. Sadly here, there are only two items. But they’re admittedly good items for what they’re worth.
As much as I would have loved a four-part making-of featurette (that provides an Arrow Video-like video essay on Mills’ style and unformed narrative structures), the eight minutes we get with “Making C’mon C’mon” provides enough enjoyment and funny, insightful segments. Same with Mills’ feature-length commentary. Mills discusses crafting the ultimate naturalism with Phoenix and developing the soundscapes.
C’mon C’mon is a fundamental story of familial/self-love and simple desires, neither of which are fully exposed until the film’s heartwarming conclusion. It perfectly explores the joys and shortcomings of life without being overly preachy or overwhelming. It’s a remarkable work that deserved more awards attention. Lionsgate’s Blu-ray release features excellent video and superb audio. Supplements are limited to two, but this is nevertheless a Recommended! movie.