John Cho is just a great film dad. I mean, he understands the love and care that goes into building small connections and emotional moments that goes into making a familial bond feel real. With Don’t Make Me Go, we get a deeply intimate and gutting look at a father and daughter whose road trip has a dark cloud hanging above it.
Directed by Hannah Marks and written by Vera Herbert, the film stars John Cho, Mia Isaac, Mitchell Hope, Jemaine Clement, Stefania LaVie Owen, and Kaya Scodelario. In the film, single father Max (John Cho) is just trying his best and his daughter Wally (Mia Isaac) is hitting her teen rebellion stage and not having any of it. But when Max discovers he has a terminal disease, he decides to try and cram all the years of love and support he will miss with his teenage daughter Wally (Mia Isaac) into the time he has left with her. Grounded after breaking the rules, Max has the chance to leave his daughter with memories she can cherish once he’s gone. With the promise of long-awaited driving lessons, Max convinces Wally to accompany him on a road trip from California to New Orleans for his 20th college reunion, where he secretly hopes to reunite her with her mother who left them long ago.
From the jump, Don’t Make Me Go is original and emotional in every single way. The emotion of the film is driven by how Marks crafts an intimate lens for the audience to look through. Instead of feeling like people on the outside, Marks chooses camera positions that make it feel like viewers are in the room with the characters. We’re standing next to them as they argue, as they cry, and as they love. That intimate atmosphere heightens each and every interaction with the bombshell of Max’s tumor hanging over every moment of joy or father-daughter disagreement.
A wholly original and emotional journey, Don’t Make Me Go explores the unbreakable, eternal bond between a father and daughter from both sides of the generational divide. But this narrative only works without feeling like a story we’ve seen before because of the chemistry between Cho and Isaac. The two feel related with every positive and negative way that comes with that relationship. More importantly, the film’s straightforward narrative never becomes boring. We’ve seen “someone will die from a terminal illness so let’s have memories together” as a plot countless times, but here, nothing feels like we’re treading a road we’ve seen before.
As Max, Cho brings a stern and worried father who chooses his daughter over everything. His dreams, his love life, everything comes second place to ensuring that Wally feels loved and has the best future he can provide. Across the film, you see Max struggling to interact with his daughter across the generational divide while also dealing with the reality that every memory he makes with his daughter will be his last. Additionally, what pushes the way we see Max is that we see him through his friends and the world around him as well. The beauty of their relationship comes into full focus as they confront the future and the past as well.
Without giving away the film’s end, it has to be said that it guts you. It does so because of the beautiful relationship you’ve seen grow over the film’s runtime. You feel sad for Wally, for Max, and yet, there is a push towards hope and living that doesn’t feel out of place. While I found myself weeping at the finale, Don’t Make Me Go leaves an impression well beyond its sadness. A depth rarely felt in films with this very familiar plot, Don’t Make Me Go is a look at a father and daughter and the impact both leave on each other’s lives. As much as a parent is important to teach and shape their child, their child also pushes them to grow.
Don’t Make Me Go is available on Prime Video July 15, 2022.
Don't Make Me Go
While I found myself weeping at the finale, Don’t Make Me Go leaves an impression well beyond its sadness. A depth rarely felt in films with this very familiar plot, Don’t Make Me Go is a look at a father and daughter and the impact both leave on each other’s lives. As much as a parent is important to teach and shape their child, their child also pushes them to grow.