“You’re not gonna like how this story ends… but I think you’re gonna like this story.” — Wally
Amazon Prime‘s newest tearjerker begins with the line above, and well… they certainly did not lie. The film has a simple plot: a terminally ill man (John Cho) and his teenage daughter (Mia Isaac) road trip from California to New Orleans for his 20th college reunion. While there, he hopes he can reunite his daughter with the mother who left them. A perfectly straightforward story for a simple yet effective film.
The film’s two main stars are an Asian man and a mixed teenager, so we already have a recipe for fantastic representation. John Cho is a Korean-American actor who is best known for his roles as Harold in the Harold & Kumar films, Sulu in Star Trek‘s reboot, and more recently, David in the hit thriller Searching. He has a wide range of both serious and silly roles, so he’s always a delight to see. Mia Isaac, however, has made her debut with this very film! Mixed representation is surprisingly sparse and she seemed quite skilled even though this was her first work.
These two are honestly really the only important characters in the movie, however, we do see Wally (Mia Isaac)’s mother briefly who is African-American. There is also an interracial gay couple at the reunion who we get to know a bit but I loved them. Much of the rest of the cast is white but the few that aren’t were nice to see.
A Spoiler-Free Look
Don’t Make Me Go is pretty much what you would expect, Wally and her father, Max, clash tremendously and don’t understand each other. So, what’s the best fix for that? A road trip where you’re trapped together for hours of course! Within the first 15 minutes, we know what’s wrong with Max. He has a bone tumor at the base of his skull. The doctors suggest a surgery that only has a 20% success rate, but if he doesn’t do it, they say he has one year to live. True to stoic dad fashion, he doesn’t tell his daughter and instead cracks a joke.
Max spends the rest of the film processing this information and working on ways to make sure his daughter will be okay without him. This includes teaching her how to drive and trying to connect with her on their way to find a guardian. It’s a cute father-daughter bonding movie with both funny and serious moments. John Cho has become a favorite of mine when playing father figures. There’s just something so awkward but charming about him that makes him a perfect fit. Mia Isaac was also great, it really felt like she was being herself.
Overall, the film is silly shenanigans, a teenager exploring her rapidly expanding world, and a stubborn dad just trying to keep up. It’s really cute and pulls on all of the right heartstrings while ripping a few out along the way. Though, it definitely doesn’t let you forget that it’s a tearjerker.
****MAJOR SPOILERS ABOUND****
If you don’t want any spoilers, click away now because that’s all the rest of the article will be!
With these types of movies, let’s be honest, you kind of expect them to die. I know that I personally was waiting for John Cho to drop the whole time. Although, have we thought much about the second main character? That’s right, true to her word, you probably won’t like the ending because it’s not Max who dies… it’s Wally.
We see Wally’s adorable teenage life of saucy pictures, learning to drive, underage drinking, and the like, but that’s just misdirection for what’s really happening. Many teenagers have anxiety at one point or another, it’s a difficult time of life. Wally is shown to anxiously sweat at many of life’s problems and even cutely faints after her first kiss. All typical coming-of-age tropes. However, we later learn that none of that was due to anxiety, Wally actually had a congenital heart defect that neither she nor her father knew about.
Admittedly, if you watch many tearjerkers or even those Hallmark-esque films, you probably saw it coming. The movie doesn’t really change the formula, and even the twist has been done several times before. The charm of this really comes from John Cho and Mia Isaac’s personalities. That being said, if this isn’t your typical kind of film, it can be blindsiding, and even if you saw it coming, it still hits hard. Many are upset at this film, and for good reason, who wants a young teenager to die? Especially when you set up the father for the whole movie?
I liked this movie, but it could’ve done well being even more serious at times. For a film about terminal illness, it’s got surprisingly silly scenes. That’s okay but in the right context. When Wally’s mother doesn’t meet her, she and her father have an argument… at a random nude beach. When Wally collapses, it’s when her dad is horribly singing karaoke. It’s moments like those that smack you away from this film because it’s such a jarring contrast. How am I supposed to take a funeral scene literally one second after I saw John Cho sing his heart out to Iggy Pop? However, maybe that’s just me, but overall, I enjoyed it. They redeem themselves with humor when Guy and Max joke as he signs the papers for his surgery. Contrasty, but much less jarring.
If you’re still going to watch this film after all of these spoilers, bring the tissues, because it’s a lot more than its twists.