Don’t Make Me Go is a movie that never fully manages to avoid feeling like it’s undergoing a constant identity crisis. Is it a drama? Maybe it’s a comedy? Or a drama with some silly sitcom style comedy elements?
There’s a lot happening here, but it’s easy to agree that it definitely has the most emotionally manipulative ending of any 2022 film so far.
Max (John Chu, Cowboy Bebop) just received a terminal diagnosis. Or almost terminal. Max has a 20% chance to survive a life-saving surgery, but the odds are bad and Max is hardly a gambler. Without the surgery, he’s got about a year to get his affairs in order.
For Max, there’s not a lot of loose ends to tie up. There’s just the major one of reuniting his 15-year-old daughter with the mother who abandoned them before he checks out.
Wally (Mia Isaac) is an oblivious teenager whose biggest concern is if she should send some scandalous text pics to her potential boyfriend. Like most movie/TV teens, Wally thinks Max is a lame, overprotective killjoy.
Max sets up the pretense of going to his college reunion. To sweeten the deal for Wally, Max will let her practice her driving along the way.
Screenwriter Vera Herbert (This Is Us) creates a needlessly frustrating premise. It’s the kind of subplot that’s immensely irritating on a TV series were a character intentionally holds back vital information that would dramatically alter the course of the story.
There’s little reason why Max can’t just tell Wally the real purpose of the road trip. It feels like an obvious way to manufacture drama. Not just from wacky subplots.
The setup also allows Director Hannah Marks to wring every drop of emotion from viewers with Max’s thoughtful stares as Wally says something unintentionally ironic — because she doesn’t know her father’s dying, get it?
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Wally says and does some standard teen girl messiness, but at her core she’s a sweet enough girl. One who would clearly treat Max differently if she knew this was part of their last year together. Or at least appreciate the road trip on another level.
Between trying to track down his ex, Max makes an occasional call to Annie (Kaya Scodelario, The Maze Runner) — who’s more of a frequent booty call than a steady girlfriend. Annie’s awkward and doesn’t really know the right things to say so it’s hard to see why Max emotionally leans so hard on her.
That feels especially confusing when Max reconnects with his college friend Guy (Josh Thompson), who seems far more emotionally stable and willing to be there for him.
Marks and Herbert can’t ever manage to settle on the appropriate tone of the film. Big dramatic moments steer into sitcom territory for no reason while other scenes have that “only in the movies” dynamic.
The soundtrack is an odd mix considering the main characters are minorities. In that sense the film plays out like an episode of This Is Us where the song selection is largely based in the 70s instead of more era appropriate songs that better reflect what the characters would actually have on their playlists.
Cho is an actor whose filmography might not be full of winners, but it’s never due to his performance. That holds true here as well. Cho’s performance is so good he almost makes Max’s frustrating decision making understandable.
Isaac gives a terrific performance as well. She does a fantastic job of playing a teen bluffing like she’s got life figured out only for pockets of vulnerability and insecurity to spring up.
Cho and Isaac deserved a better movie — one that didn’t put so much of the burden on them to elevate the material. Then there’s the final act, which feels so cheap and manipulative that it squanders any goodwill the film earned.
At the start of the film, Wally warns we won’t like the way this story ends. She’s right, but probably not in the way the filmmakers envisioned.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Photo Credit: Amazon
Don’t Make Me Go is available now on Amazon Prime.
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