DON’T MAKE ME GO (2022)
Starring John Cho, Mia Isaac, Kaya Scodelario, Josh Thomson, Otis Dhanji, Stefania LaVie Owen, Mitchell Hope, Jen Van Epps, Jemaine Clement, Quentin Warren, Elizabeth Hawthorne, Graham Vincent, Jordan Mooney, Timothy MacDonald, Madeleine McCarthy, Tane Williams-Accra, Jade Harlow, Simon Mead, Brooklyn Nathan, Kate Olivares, Arlo Gibson and Catherine Zulver.
Screenplay by Vera Herbert.
Directed by Hannah Marks.
Distributed by Amazon Studios. 109 minutes. Rated R.
In the first words spoken in Don’t Make Me Go, a voiceover narrator says, “You’re not going to like the way this story ends. But I think you’re going to like this story.”
What can I say? She’s not wrong.
Don’t Make Me Go is fairly intriguing during most of the running time, until it suddenly takes an overly melodramatic turn that nearly capsizes the whole enterprise. It doesn’t completely ruin all that came before it, but it does leave the audience with a bit of a bad taste in its mouth, feeling manipulated and disappointed.
Which is kind of surprising, because the screenplay by Vera Herbert was part of “The Blacklist,” an annual grouping of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. That happened in 2012, so it took an additional ten years to get it onto the big screen. And, honestly, I can kind of see why it had the big lull before getting made.
Essentially, Don’t Make Me Go is a stylized version of the old-fashioned road trip movie. An uptight single father named Max (John Cho) and his cutely rebellious teenaged daughter Wally (Mia Isaac) drive from Los Angeles to New Orleans (and eventually to Florida). He tells her that it is for his college reunion, and of course she doesn’t want to go. (Hence the title…) However, the audience knows more about this trip than she does.
You see, Max has just found out that he has a large tumor in his skull. He has two choices – a very dangerous surgery which could potentially kill him, or not have surgery which leaves him with maybe a year to live. (Just for the record, the tumor is not the melodramatic twist mentioned above. The audience knows that circumstance may or may not change the film’s climax and is ready for either outcome throughout the film).
Max decides not to tell his daughter that he is dying. He also doesn’t tell her that he is bringing her to the reunion in hopes of finding his ex – her mother – who abandoned them when she was a little girl.
That doesn’t sound like a well-thought-out plan.
However, on the trip, the father and daughter get to know each other better. She learns that he wasn’t always the uptight and strict guy who she thinks he is. He even used to be a musician. Who knew? And he finally lets on that he has been having a semi-casual relationship with a new woman (Kaya Scodelario) which may have become a little serious. The scenes between Cho and Scodelario, both in person in the beginning and by phone from the road later in the film make for some of the best moments of the film.
He also takes advantage of the trip to give his daughter some life lessons – from learning how to drive to more important ones about relationships and living.
And, without going into too much detail for fear of spoilers, he finally explains what is happening and they are finally starting to connect as parent and child when that terrible conclusion happens. In fairness, in hindsight there was some foreshadowing of the ending, but it still feels like it comes out of left field. It is supposed to be shocking, I guess, but really it is manipulative and overwrought.
It seems the first words of the film were probably the most truthful. I didn’t like the way Don’t Make Me Go ends at all, but I liked much of the ride getting there.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2022 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 16, 2022.