“Don’t Make Me Go” is a father-daughter road trip drama that pairs John Cho with Mia Isaac as they journey across the United States. Directed by Hannah Marks and written by Vera Herbert, the film treads familiar ground over its nearly two-hour runtime, showcasing Cho and Isaac’s acting prowess, rapport, and emotional chemistry. Their solid, committed performances attempt to elevate the film beyond its clichés, but a third-act twist ultimately undermines its efforts.
Marks, a director known for her distinctive style, needs help to inject the necessary energy into the story. Herbert’s script, which made the Black List, repeatedly falls short in distinguishing itself from others in the genre. This film represents a step back for Marks, whose previous works “Banana Split” and “Mark, Mary & Some Other People” boasted sharper scripts, clearer visions, and greater creativity. “Don’t Make Me Go” adheres more closely to the conventions of road trip movies, cancer narratives, and father-daughter relationship stories, lacking the unique flair that Marks has previously demonstrated.
The film follows Max (Cho), a single father with a terminal illness, and his teenage daughter, Wally (Isaac), as they drive to Max’s college reunion and search for Wally’s estranged mother. Wally grapples with typical adolescent concerns, such as her overbearing father and a problematic romance. Still, the film goes beyond a standard coming-of-age drama by delving into heavier themes like mortality and the impact of broken relationships.
Despite the serious subject matter, “Don’t Make Me Go” maintains an enjoyable tone without overwhelming its audience. Cho and Isaac are captivating onscreen presence, combined with Marks’ direction and Herbert’s writing, make for a memorable film that is both emotionally resonant and hard to forget. While the movie could benefit from a more innovative approach (and that third act!) , it remains a noteworthy addition to the genre, driven by powerful performances and poignant themes.