John Cho is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood. In a career that has spanned the likes of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and Star Trek (2009), he has proven he’s got the chops to fit in just about any project. This, of course, was highlighted in the 2016 viral social media hashtag campaign #StarringJohnCho which advocated for more Asian-American representation in films and media. Comedies, legendary franchises, big-budget Manga adaptations, contained thrillers, you name it Cho can do it. We shouldn’t be surprised that he shines in his next project, the deeply emotional family dramedy Don’t Make Me Go, a story that is absolutely made for our time.
No, Don’t Make Me Go, isn’t about the COVID-19 pandemic, but it does explore the existential territory of life and mortality that has been on the forefront of our minds as we continue into this global crisis. How much control do we have in our lives? Would you be prepared if catastrophe struck your family right now? Have you been living up to your passions, desires, and callings? This makes Don’t Make Me Go a timely story, but the decision not to include COVID makes it a timeless one.
Cho plays Max, a single father who, early in the film, receives a fatal health diagnosis. To ensure he has the chance to make a few more lasting memories with his daughter and begin to get his affairs in order, the two begin a journey for Max’s daughter, Wally, to meet her mother. This is a great time to sing the praises of newcomer Mia Isaac who plays Wally and steals most of the movie from the veteran Cho.
Here the classic movie trope of the road trip is used to perfection to explore the film’s larger questions about life. Max and Wally have very different goals for the trip and often exchange control of the reigns. There are lots of hiccups, twists, and turns as they go. These are characters, like all of us in the time of the Great Resignation, wondering where they are going, who’s driving, and will they ever really get there? However, as the story plays out, you just know that this moment in Max and Wally’s lives will be a turning point.
If you have reached such a turning point in your own life, as many of us have during the pandemic, you know that they usually only follow seasons of great trial and frustration. That is true of this story. Not much goes as planned on this road trip. Really, it’s the next installment in a lineage including A Goofy Movie and Little Miss Sunshine. Ultimately, Don’t Make Me Go is about what we do when things just don’t work out. How do we respond when we catch a terrible draw. Will we keep living and pursuing our passions or curl up like a potato bug and just survive?
Sometimes there actually is a logic to loss. In a fallen world, a world that has fallen from God’s original creation, a world that was supposed to be free of death, decay, and shame but is now shaken by them, loss is inevitable. It is interesting, then, that this story doesn’t spend the bulk of its runtime wondering why death is coming, but rather how will this family respond to the reality of loss. It is easy to spend our lives waiting for the other shoe to drop, but that time and energy could be spent with the people you love doing the things that give you life.
Don’t Make Me Go is just as interested in living as it is in dying. It might not be the most comforting movie. Some of the scenes, like those involving an accidental trip to a nude beach, are designed specifically to find the comedy in being uncomfortable. But there can be comfort in accepting what you cannot change, recognizing the fallen state of the world, finding gratitude in the blessings of God, and living somewhat in spite of loss. It can be the hardest thing in the world to keep going, but, with the right people and the right inspiration, it is possible.
Don’t Make Me Go is Rated R and will be available on Amazon Prime on July 15th.