By Lindsay Wynne
Shot in black and white and somewhat in the style of cinema verité, go! Go on effortlessly weaves the narrative of fiction and non-fiction into its analysis of the human condition. At its heart, the film is about relationships with each other – a sad and delightful exploration of family, fear and hope.
In semi-documentary fashion, the film chronicles several weeks in the life of radio journalist Johnny, as he navigates his complicated relationship with his sister, Viv, and nine-year-old son, Jesse. In his current assignment, Johnny interviews children about their thoughts on life and the future, as well as their fears and desires. When he agrees to watch Jesse for a few weeks of family turmoil, his life becomes one long interview, sometimes as an interviewer and other times as an interviewee. The point of view of children carries as much weight as that of adults, which sometimes shows that children often know a lot more than we do. It seems we adults have a lot to learn from our pint-sized counterparts.
The film is a cinematic onion – the skin of it seems obvious in its exploration of family struggles, but the underlying layers show the subtlety of the deepest truths about human connection and understanding. Writer and director Mike Mills deftly connects this theme to the story by weaving literary examples from books read by the characters throughout the film. This mix of fiction and non-fiction is no accident – it’s a statement about the realities and fantasies that make up life, and how we all search for answers when we have little- things to do.
Despite its critical appeal, the film wasn’t nominated for an Oscar in any category, and while some would call that a snub, it’s more of a gross oversight. The screenplay, direction, cinematography and acting have been recognized by the BAFTAs, the Film Independent Spirit Awards and countless other film festivals and associations. The cinematography in particular is so perfect that you sometimes miss what’s being said – instead your attention is absorbed in the beauty of a shot and its composition. Sometimes muted, other times electric, cinematographer Robbie Ryan expertly delivers Mills’ vision of life as what we read between the lines – and somewhat ironically, what is do not simply black and white.
The acting is superb. As Johnny, Joaquin Phoenix gives a warm and vulnerable performance rarely seen in his filmography. Gaby Hoffman, while playing another somewhat quirky character role, tones down her performance to make Viv more approachable – someone we feel genuine empathy and respect for. Eleven-year-old Woody Norman portrays Jesse as curious and particular, cautious and introspective. All of the performances are honest, natural and, again, subtly layered to give the characters depth and authenticity.
While some reviewers escaped a light plot, this film has heart. It doesn’t preach any definite ideas about how families should function or the true meaning of life. He simply asks each of us, “How do you feel? And then begs us all to stop and just listen to the answer.
Friday, November 19, 2021