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Interview: Filmmaker Mike Mills Chats About His Writing Process, Joaquin Phoenix, and ‘C’mon C’mon’

No one is doing quite what Mike Mills is doing. The filmmaker has made a career out of making movies that have bigger hearts, a different focus, and just a different feel than anyone else. Whether it was his prior flick 20th Century Women, Beginners, or even going back to Thumbsucker, it’s clear to see. C’mon C’mon is just more evidence of this. I told him so, too, when given the chance to hop on Zoom with him last week to talk about his newest film, currently out now. Today, you get a chance to check out our chat, which marks the second time I’ve spoken to Mills. Funny enough, he was one of the very first people I ever interviewed, which I reminded him of at the start.

Below, you can see my conversation with Mills. We’re obviously chatting about C’mon C’mon, but this is more of a looser back and forth and the writer/director in general. Now, we make room for some Joaquin Phoenix chatter, as well as some mentions of Woody Norman (who he really hypes up and wasn’t underselling, as I then spoke to him, with that interview coming to you all on Friday), but I just wanted to pick Mills’ mind. He even briefly shows off the notebook with the musings for his next project them, which I found quite exciting. In any event, his newest film is phenomenal and you all should make it your business to see.

I loved the movie out of the New York Film Festival. Here is a bit from my NYFF review:

Throughout his career, filmmaker Mike Mills has shown a huge beating heart, as well as a real understanding of humanity. Whether it’s ThumbsuckerBeginners20th Century Women, or now C’mon C’mon, he mines our feelings for cinematic nirvana. This latest movie, playing at the 59th New York Film Festival, sees him somehow at his most gentle. Armed with a pair of remarkable performances, Mills tells a small story that packs a big emotional punch. While never going too deep in his drama, or too broad in his comedy, he tells a human tale, one that engages from start to finish. A24 has a touching flick on their hands here with C’mon C’mon, to be sure.

Writer/director Mike Mills has always been a perceptive screenwriter, and that’s true again here. Directing the character study with an intimate black and white visual palate from cinematographer Robbie Ryan, he makes it all about the conversations and interactions between his cast. C’mon C’mon is rife with little moments that stay with you. He never calls attention to himself as a filmmaker, letting Hoffmann, Norman, and Phoenix lead the way. Backing it all is a gentle yet omnipresent score from Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner. It’s arguably Mills’ smallest work to date, but it’s among his best as well. The sense of honesty that permeates every frame of this picture is truly notable.

Here now is my interview with C’mon C’mon writer/director Mike Mills. Enjoy:

C’mon C’mon is in theaters now!

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Written by Joey Magidson

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