Don’t Make Me Go sees John Cho as Max Park, a father figure with cancer. After discovering his illness, Max is faced with insurmountable odds of living. Being a single father, Max decides to take his daughter Wally (Mia Isaac) on a road trip in hopes of giving his daughter some final life lessons.
The film showcases heartwarming moments between its two leads.
Not to mention, Cho and Isaac have infectious chemistry throughout the film. Chemistry aside, is the Amazon Prime release a road trip worth taking?
As mentioned, the film involves a single father who discovers he has cancer. In the movie, Max is faced with an extremely difficult choice. His oncologist explains he will die in a year, or he can take a risk by having an operation with a 20% survival rate.
The movie touches on many aspects of life, but the most prominent one involves life being worth a gamble. This is emphasized in one sequence when Max and Wally stop at a casino and discuss their differing approaches to risk-taking. Wally is more impetuous than her father. Max is overly cautious and logical (possibly to a fault).
As they journey across the country, Max tries to give Wally everything he has left, including wisdom, self-worth, and driving lessons. And he does so while keeping his terminal condition a secret. His main goal is to see Wally have a safe future before his time runs out.
John Cho and Mia Isaac shine
Vera Herbert’s screenplay is ripe with charm and sincerity throughout the first two-thirds of the film. One really gets a sense of Max and Wally’s relationship without knowing the full history. The conversations are tense but in an authentic, loving manner. The dialogue conveys that they have been through a lot as father and daughter. The genuineness of the writing is possibly attributed to Herbert’s experience as a writer on This Is Us. A show riddled with family dynamics and tragic elements.
This is strengthened by John Cho and Mia Isaac, who have tremendous chemistry together. Cho has seamlessly transitioned himself into serious roles, and Don’t Make Me Go branches him further into maturity as a performer. Newcomer Mia Isaac is incredible in one of her first major lead roles.
All this aside, as great as the road trip moments are within the story, the film has very troubling messages as the journey comes to an end. Wally herself narrates over the images to warn the audience by saying they will dislike the ending. And being self-aware of this notion does not soften the blow of how it lands.
Without spoiling too much, the film ends on an abrupt downer that feels subversive for the sake of being subversive. It seems like the goal was to have the audience understand that we all have a short time on this earth, and while one may be ill, another can leave without warning But this idea is clumsily communicated.
This reviewer was left with the uneasy feeling we are somehow freer in the absence of loved ones. This might not have been the filmmaker’s intention, but unfortunately, it was a troubling, gut-punch ending—a disappointing ending for a film that was engrossingly charming until this point.
It is, however, an impactful finale the viewer will not stop thinking about for days, leaving thoughts velcroed to the brain.
Because of this, Don’t Make Me Go is hard to recommend. The present-day environment is already full of unnecessary gut punches. And with this movie, the final blow seems a cheap shot begging for a penalty call.
Should you stream Don’t Make Me Go on Amazon?
Don’t Make Me Go showcases a sweet father and daughter story with tons of endearing moments. At the very least, watching John Cho and Mia Isaac’s heartwarming chemistry almost saves the entire film.
Director Hannah Marks has stated in other interviews that she does believe the story is “hopeful and optimistic.” Sadly, this was not our takeaway. There is nothing wrong with a woeful ending if executed properly. But the end result of this affecting road trip is more frustrating than satisfying.
Don’t Make Me Go begins streaming on Amazon Prime Video on July 15.