Directed by Hannah Marks – Screenplay by Vera Herbert.
A dramedy road trip film, Don’t Make Me Go tells the story of the Park family, which consists of only the single father, Max (played by John Cho), and his teenage daughter, Wally (played by Mia Isaac). Together they embark on a cross-country road trip for the purpose of finding Wally’s estranged mother. Max has just learned that he has a terminal disease, so this is a priceless trip, on which he needs to spend his time wisely to prepare her for what is to come, bond with her, and give her lasting memories. He also has to find a way to tell his daughter what is going on with him, and, as far as she knows, she’s just going on the trip to learn how to drive and to accompany her father to his high school reunion.
Predictably heartbreaking, this is a bring-your-tissues kind of film. It is exactly what it sounds like, Don’t Make Me Go is both a really sad and sometimes slightly sweet daddy-daughter road trip film that relies quite a bit on its two leads’ chemistry. Much of it is trite and somewhat cliched as much of the opening sees a dad struggling to connect to his daughter or warm to the fact that she has a boyfriend, while the father, like many men, doesn’t know how to communicate his ailments to the people that he loves.
There are attempts made to make this film feel more fun than it is. We see a nude beach twice in the film, which is a really awkward thing for a family to accidentally walk onto, but I think that is mostly it. It is more of a daddy-daughter drama than a successful dramedy because the comedy doesn’t really flow throughout it. I guess you could say that the process of teaching Wally how to drive is its main source of comedy, but I think the film kind of messes up the film’s big moment with this subplot. When Max finally tells Wally what is going on with him, the filmmaker has paired Wally’s understandably emotional immediate reaction with a musical theme that has this upbeat and energetic vibe to it and it completely throws off the scene, which I thought was just sad. I thought it was a tonal miscue.
“You’re not gonna like the way this story ends, but I think you’re going to like this story,” are the first words said in this film. It’s an interesting opening to the film, which immediately made me think of the unreliable narrator in Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. It is a statement that is somewhat foreboding because of the subject matter of the film. More than that, I also think it feels like the filmmaker is getting ahead of mixed reviews. Because, frankly, the opening quote would be a fairly accurate way to sum up this film. Most of the story works relatively well, but then the ending is a complete and utter gut punch. It is a late and sudden twist that is way more predictable than the filmmaker realizes and which completely takes the wind out of the film’s sails. However, in spite of the ending and the trite and cliched writing, the film mostly works because of John Cho and Mia Isaac’s convincing performances.
6 out of 10
– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.