Review by Sean Boelman
Filmmaker Hannah Marks has made some of the funniest cringe comedies to come out in recent years, but her newest film, Don’t Make Me Go, is an entirely different beast. Although there are still moments of tenderness and awkward humor, some baffling decisions make this an underwhelming effort.
The movie follows a single father who, after being diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor, decides to take one last road trip with his daughter to allow her to reconnect with her mother who left them years before. For most of the film, it’s an innocent if conventional road movie until it takes a preposterous shift in the last twenty minutes.
It’s not necessarily that the final act is bad in and of itself — but the way it is handled makes it outright infuriating. Other films have done the exact same thing before but better and more sensitively. As it is done here, it feels like cheap emotional manipulation used for little more than to pull at the heartstrings.
While it is certainly nice to see a movie exploring these issues from the lens of single fatherhood, it would have been better had it actually done something with them. Instead, the film settles for a mixture of low-hanging fruit, from obvious jokes to “heartwarming” moments we have seen hundreds of times before.
The dynamic between the two lead characters is certainly what sells the movie. Even when the humor becomes overly broad, the father-daughter relationship that serves as the emotional core is strong. It could have done without some of the more generic cancer movie beats, but they are somewhat necessary to push the story along.
Cho is clearly a very talented actor, and this role allows him to flex his comedic chops a bit more than usual. The dialogue is frequently bland, but even so, Cho is able to bring out an extraordinary amount of emotion. Mia Isaac also shows a great deal of potential in her debut role, having excellent chemistry with her co-star.
And for a road movie, the film has a surprising shortage of beautiful sights. Even road movies that are primarily set in cars find a way to make the audience feel like they are along for the ride, traversing the country with the characters, and that is Marks’s biggest failure with her approach to this film.
Don’t Make Me Go has some compelling moments, but it completely fumbles its final third with an embarrassing twist. It’s too bad, because the pairing of John Cho and Mia Isaac shows some real spark — they just needed a better script to work with.
Don’t Make Me Go hits Prime Video on July 15.