I’ve been a fan of John Cho for years, since his days in the Harold and Kumar films. Having seen his work in many films and shows, I was very hopeful about the quality of the movie. Despite the subject, a dying man, this film goes to some unexpected places, is full of humor and tenderness, and is John Cho at his finest. Both performers, John Cho and Mia Isaac, are emotional as father and daughter, and the film is joyful and heartbreaking simultaneously.
Don’t Make Me Go is an action dramedy film directed by Hannah Marks and written by Vera Herbert. In the movie, John Cho stars Max Park, who discovers he has a terminal illness. As a single father, he sets out with his reluctant teenage daughter Wally (Mia Isaac) on a cross-country road trip to find her estranged mother. Along the way, he tries to teach her everything he thinks she might need to know for the rest of her life, but hidden truths come to light, and Wally ends up teaching Max as much as she learns from him.
One of the reasons this is such a solidly good film is the dialogue and humor in every scene between Max and Wally. Lines like “I’ll be miserable” when Max suggests the trip or how he bargains driving lessons to get her to go make for some highly comedic moments that keep the film focused on the relationship between them rather than the sadness of his illness. There are also some great moments with other characters, like the woman Max is dating, Annie, or when he confronts his ex-friend to get information on Wally’s mother. Each scene helps balance humor with more poignant moments, like when Max realizes he isn’t going to be there to see meteor showers with Wally or when he tries to explain why he’s looking for her mother. These give us unexpected humor and a highly emotional film with just the right blend of joy and drama. And it is such a great mix of ordinary teenage drama and the emotion of Max’s situation.
One of the biggest reasons the film is so good is the outstanding chemistry between John Cho and Mia Isaac. Both are brilliantly good, but it is their interactions together that make this a beautiful movie. In every piece of dialogue, every emotion displayed, their energy together is so positive and in sync. Their characters resonate as though they truly are father and daughter. Of course, much of that is the acting ability of both. This movie allows John Cho the full scope of his comedic and dramatic acting abilities. He shines in the role and brings such a gentle, loving dynamic to the character of Max. Mia Isaac is compelling and charismatic, equally skilled with a comedic line as with the more emotional scenes. Both actors give us the full range of what they are capable of, and those emotions resonate. The secondary performances are solid, but John Cho and Mia Isaac elevate this film to a higher quality.
While the movie is excellent while heartbreaking, there are moments that don’t hold together as well. The film seems to ramble and seems to wander in its focus. There’s an excellent reason for that, but that means you are hit with such an unexpected outcome that it might leave you confused or wondering if a semi hit you; it is so surprising. In some films, I would delight in something different. This film made me want to rewrite the ending, and while it does highlight the lessons both father and daughter learn on their trip, it still left me yearning for something more traditional.
If you love dramedy and John Cho, you will love this film. It is both emotional and unexpected, and while the ending is nothing like what I anticipated, the comedy, the heart, and the love in the movie made me fall in love with both characters. Both John Cho and Mia Isaac are phenomenal, with the latter stealing the show with her wonderfully endearing character and brilliant acting, but John Cho was at his finest. This is a beautiful film, and I loved watching it.
Rating: 4 out of 5 headaches.
Don’t Make Me Go
When single father Max (John Cho) 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. With the promise of long-awaited driving lessons, he 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. 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 with heart and humor along for the ride.
DON’T MAKE ME GO launches on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, July 15, 2022.
ONE-LINER: When a single father to a teenage daughter learns that he has a fatal brain tumor, he takes her on a road trip to find the mother who abandoned her years before and to try to teach her everything she might need over the rest of her life.