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Don’t Make Me Go…

An emotional father-daughter road trip

'Don't Make me Go', a film directed by Hannah Marks, takes the viewers through a complicated father-daughter relationship that seems to have lost its verve but slowly regains strength to become an unbreakable bond. Ramandeep Mahal reviews this 'dramedy' with a high emotional quotient. 

“You're not going to like the way this story ends. But I think you’re gonna like the story”, says Wally Parker, the main protagonist of the film.

Given how the tale progresses towards an unexpected finale, the opening caution isn't entirely incorrect. My caveat. Don’t watch the film if you are unable to control your tears. My eyes welled up with tears as the film headed for its denouement. This film demonstrates how ‘Gen Z,’ is bereft of and unable to appreciate the most crucial connection in our lives: parents and their children. Parents are preoccupied with building up their careers, while the children are struggling with their own life problems and transformations. We all need to learn to make time to nurture human relationships especially the ones as precious as that between parents and children. I will personally rate this movie 7 out of 10 due to its emotional facet.

Don’t Make Me Go released on 15 July 2022 on Amazon Prime. The movie starts with a hilarious scene where Max Parker (John Cho) ends up taking his daughter Wally Parker (Mia Isaac) to a nudist beach (the fact is that he isn’t aware that it is a nudist beach). “What is wrong with you? You brought me to a nudist beach!  I would be further scarred by this!” says a horrified Wally Parker to her baffled Dad. Directed by Hannah Marks (of After Everything, Banana Split, Mark, Mary and Some Other People fame) the movie takes us through a complex father-daughter relationship. John Cho is mainly known for his comic roles such as Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas, American Pie series, but here he comes across a brooding father parenting a fifteen-year-old. Max Parker is a loner who stays with his teenage daughter Wally Parker. All through the movie he goes through these painful headaches which are diagnosed as cancer and he is told that his chances of survival, if he opts for surgery, are only 20 percent. He decides to keep it a secret from Wally and take her on a road trip (the trip being a journey to prepare her for a future without a father). His aim is also to attend his school reunion and unite Wally with her estranged mother. At the same time, Max's diagnosis changes the relationship between him and Annie, a casual girlfriend (Kaya Scodelario). While Max is counting the days left of his existence, Wally is concerned about her dubious blossoming affair with a teenage boy Glen (Otis Dhanji).

Regarding Max and Wally’s cross-country journey, director Hannah Marks deserves full credit for successfully recreating the look and feel of the United States despite filming on sites in New Zealand. Vera Herbert of 'This Is Us' fame writes the dramedy (drama+comedy), and although it’s an enjoyable plot for the most part, the third act totally transforms the picture.

Herbert's writing makes an effort to develop Max as a concerned and loving father who frantically attempts to ensure that his daughter is cared for after his departure by her biological mother. What makes the film watchable is the fact that Cho and Isaac's performances beautifully capture the special honesty, reliance, and love between single parents and their children. This adds a touching facet and contributes to the film's heart-breaking twist (of course not to be disclosed!). However, disappointingly, the movie does not delve further into their characters or offer deep insights into their emotional turmoil.

The film is a balanced mix of comedy, drama and tragedy. The first half has comic elements woven into the storyline. The comic first half juxtaposed against the painful and sombre second half of the film not only takes the viewers off guard but also acts as a cathartic ‘comic relief’ and highlights the tragic elements of the latter half. The transformation in the characters of Max and Wally after the diagnosis of Max’s illness keeps the viewers glued to their seats and battling the lump in their throats. John Cho's performance is crucial in keeping you interested. His heartfelt depiction of a parent, as well as his relationship with Mia Isaac, is the film’s saving grace. Even at his most vulnerable moments, such as when he explains to his daughter why her mother walked out on them, Cho’s honest acting makes Max endearing. Wally, as Mia Isaac, is a vivacious character for whom the world is her oyster. The actress’s honest portrayal of Wally arouses a sense of compassion in the viewer. The message about the ephemeral nature of life and its uncertainties comes across strongly. However, the storyline appears a little contrived, even if it pays off in the end.

Film: Don't Make me Go: Welcome

Dr. Ramandeep Mahal is an Assistant Professor of English in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Maharishi Markandeshwar Mullana, Ambala. She received her Doctorate degree from Maharishi Markandeshwar Mullana Ambala in 2018. Her research interests include Anglo-American Literature, Indian Writing in English, African Literature. She is the author of more than twenty research papers.

Film: Don't Make me Go: Text
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