Still from the film
Still from the film

Don’t Make Me Go Movie Review: A warm road trip family drama that suffers roadblocks

The film's premise is simple, which gives it immense space to play with character development, but the screenplay pays little justice to the opportunities
Rating:(2.5 / 5)

“You are not going to like the way this story ends, but I think you would like the story,” is how Hannah Marks’ latest directorial Don’t Make Me Go starts off. It is pretty much the feeling we are left with by the end of this feature film. We don't like the ending, but the storytelling isn't likeable either. 

The plot of Don’t Make Me Go is simple. Max (John Cho) is diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor and wishes to take his teen daughter Wally (Mia Isaac) to his 20-year high school reunion, much to the chagrin of the latter. However, the road trip is just a smokescreen as Max wants to use it to reunite Wally reunite with her estranged mother Nicole (Jen Van Epps).

As the duo embark on a road trip, it gives them ample opportunities to bond over. We see Max teach Wally  how to dance, how to drive a car, and more. There is also a hilarious sequence where they accidentally land up at a nude beach. This is soon followed by an emotionally stirring scene where Wally gets to know of Max's sickness. There is a subversion of sorts with the way Nicole reacts to the reentry of Wally and Max into her life. These set pieces evoke some sense of emotional sympathy and almost make you root for the Max-Wally relationship. However, these scenes aren't really fleshed out properly to leave a lasting impact on the audience. The wafer-thin plotline of Don't Make Me Go doesn't help either.

Director: Hannah Marks

Cast: John Cho, Mia Issac, Kaya Scodelario, Josh Thomson

Streaming: Amazon Prime Video

With a rather strong premise, the makers had the space to play with the character development, but the screenplay doesn't do justice to the script's potential. Take, for example, the scene when Wally is waiting inside the car while Max meets Nicole to brief her about his sickness and their daughter's future. With just this description, one can understand the importance of this scene in the overall scheme of things. However, the scene is bland beyond redemption. In fact, even the life crisis that makes Nicole stay away from Wally isn't convincing enough. They are neither engaging nor unlock a new dimension in the Max-Wally equation. After a point, we just follow the narrative without any emotional investment, and the rooting too stops after a point.

The characters are rather unidimensional and failing to dig deep into the layers of these characters are detrimental to the film's prospects. Even the mix of ethnicity in the Max household isn't explored enough. Of course, there is a line where Wally talks about her life goal and expresses her wish to “see the world"  to “want more culture” but the lack of development of this angle doesn't give these characters a well-rounded feeling. 

Even if the first two acts seem salvageable, the final act is disappointing to say the least. The final proverbial twist in the tale is less a plot point, and more a copout of sorts. The romantic track between Max and Annie (Kaya Scodelario) too is a definite misfit. Nevertheless, the saving grace of Don't Make Me Go is the performance of John Cho. His simplistic yet highly emotional portrayal of a father, and his chemistry with Mia Issac, is the lifeline of Don't Make Me Go, which otherwise would have been let go off just another generic family-bonding-on-a-road-trip film. 

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