Review: Don't Make Me Go | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, September 22nd, 2023  

Don’t Make Me Go

Studio: Amazon Studios
Director: Hannah Marks

Jul 11, 2022 Web Exclusive
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Hannah Marks’ Don’t Make Me Go is a by-the-books road trip dramedy with emotional tension, dynamic performances, and a passable level of heart. Unfortunately, these qualities are all nullified by a misguided and baffling ending.

The film follows a single father, Max (John Cho), and his daughter, Wally (Mia Isaac), who have an on-and-off relationship. When Max finds out that he has a brain tumor, leaving him with the options of undergoing a risky surgery or dying within a year, he decides to refrain from telling Wally about the diagnosis. Instead, he suggests the two go on a late-summer road trip to his college reunion held across the country. Secretly, he hopes to connect Wally with her elusive mother who ran out on them when Wally was young, setting up a life for his daughter when he will no longer be there.

From there, Don’t Make Me Go makes all of the typical “road trip film” pit stops. Max’s and Wally’s uncomfortable silences at the beginning of the trip eventually morph into complex conversations as the two discuss Max’s past, her mother and her goals in life. As Wally further finds her purpose in the world and begins rebelling against Max in different ways, the tension between the two increases, especially given Max’s need to sidestep revealing anything about his medical situation.

Don’t Make Me Go’s stereotypical nature doesn’t work against the film or for it. Instead, it creates an entirely average viewing experience. This is attributable to the film’s basic screenplay, which lacks the creative tenacity, dynamic tone and specific pacing required to make the narrative stand out from other films within the genre. While the screenplay hits emotional heartbeats, especially during the film’s finale, these moments still feel a little too familiar, rendering them less impactful as a result.

Just when you’ve made your peace with Don’t Make Me Go’s narrative flaws, in the film’s climactic sequence, a plot twist occurs that is equal parts baffling, soulless and frustrating. Without revealing any spoilers, the film takes the sort of turn that makes the viewer question all the events that transpired before, in the worst way possible. Instead of delivering the film’s themes in a memorable and impactful way, the finale leaves one wondering why they wasted 109 minutes of their time on a movie that seems to care so little about its internal logic. In its defense, the film does open with a voice-over from Wally, alerting viewers that, while they may like the story, they won’t like the ending. At the very moment the twist occurs, though, it becomes clear that the character is still under-selling this fact.

Despite Don’t Make Me Go ‘s shortcomings, it has two incredible performances at its center. Cho shines as Max, delivering a sometimes muted, sometimes loud performance that echoes the complex personality of his character. Cho is an incredibly visual performer, a feat that shows in the way he reacts to chaotic events or stinging one-liners in the film. His ability to showcase emotions in this way makes his character act in a way that feels relatable and human. Isaac matches Cho on-screen with a searing performance that captures her character’s teenage angst, desires and fears about the future. The two have chemistry, making their interactions engaging to watch even when the screenplay doesn’t give them enough to work with. (

Author rating: 5/10

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