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(from left) Mia Isaac and John Cho in Hannah Marks' Don't Make Me Go.

(from left) Mia Isaac and John Cho in Hannah Marks’ do not let me go.
photo: Prime video

Most road movies are about the journey, not the destination. do not let me go is the opposite :TTeenage Wally (Mia Isaac) warns in the opening sequence that viewers won’t like the ending, and even a surprise twist (we don’t want to spoil it) won’t throw the film off its charted course. On the other hand, there are only limited logical conclusions to be drawn from a story about terminal illnesses, single parents and adolescent rebellion.

After suffering from recurring and debilitating headaches, Max (John Cho) receives a diagnosis that may give him just a year to live. With an operation there is 20 percent risk of not surviving the operation. With his college reunion conveniently looming, Max suggests that he and his daughter Wally take the occasion on a cross-country road trip from California to Louisiana, with the ulterior motive of reuniting Wally with her estranged mother, Nicole (Jen Van Epps). unite. who had left them both more than a decade ago.

This kind of ambush never ends well – on screen or in real life – but for some unknown reason Max exclusively commits to this course of action without a back-up plan rather than opting for life-saving treatment. Wally reluctantly joins him after he promises to let her take the wheel occasionally.

Both “Finding an Abandoned Parent” and “Coping with a Terminal Illness” are subjects that can easily become cliche if not carefully addressed. Screenwriter Vera Herbert, whose credits include the TV series This is us, uses those lurid shortcuts to evoke visceral responses, but otherwise doesn’t do anything particularly interesting, opting for the most obvious results. Similarly, the film fails to explore the intriguing dynamic between an Asian-American father and a mixed-race daughter. They never get a sense of their relationship before they embark, or the way it unfolds during (or because of) the journey, leaving the actors with nuance to deliver.

To that end, Isaac is entirely believable as a wayward teenager, while Cho’s performance is inconsistent. Thus, Max’s illness only becomes relevant when the script calls for it, rather than “recurring and debilitating headaches” constantly influencing his behavior. There’s little discussion of how race is affecting their relationship, and there’s no talk of grandparents or distant relatives to expand on these stick figure characters.

Instead, the film seems more invested in Max and Wally’s respective long-distance romances. Though he’s completely reconciled to impending death, Max inexplicably wants to get serious with his casual sex partner Annie (Kaya Scodelario), who doesn’t turn down his romantic advances even after she finds out about his terminal illness. Meanwhile, Wally struggles to define her relationship with Glenn (Otis Dhanji), to whom she is attracted, even though he picks up her text messages as ghosts, pressures her to send nude photos, and still seems stuck on his ex . Herbert’s script also doesn’t tell us what makes Max and Wally support other people instead of each other.

Don’t Let Me Go – Official Trailer | Prime video

in the drive my car, Kafuku and Misaki learn a lot about each other and themselves just by driving through Hiroshima. Over the course of their cross-country journey, Max and Wally uncover each other’s secrets, but learn little about themselves. After spending an intense time being hip-jointed, they’ve certainly bonded more closely – but we’ll see no indication of this change, although the different landscapes, peoples and cultures they experience together would certainly be conducive to such discoveries.

Director Hannah Marks substitutes New Zealand for the USA, a choice that becomes even more apparent when Max and Wally spend so much time off the interstate freeways. Even if the vastness true style American landscapes recently seen in nomadic country and jockey becoming their own art house visual cliche, that touch here would have added a more contemplative edge. But Marks, an actress-turned-filmmaker, doesn’t yet have a keen cinematic eye. We’d suggest the film belongs to Lifetime rather than its streaming service distributor Prime Video, but at least this soapy network has a point of view. Even for a film obsessed with its goal from the start, do not let me go mostly takes a road to nowhere.

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