You’re not going to like the end of this
“You’re not going to like the end of this story.”
These are the words we hear during Don’t Make Me Go‘s opening narration, as Wally Parks (Mia Isaac), the 16-year-old protagonist at the heart of the movie, warns us about the conclusion of this heartfelt but ultimately unsatisfying tale.
In truth, you probably won’t like the end of this story as there is a chance that you will feel cheated when the movie nears its conclusion. To say any more would be wrong as I don’t want to spoil the movie for you. But you do need to prepare yourself for a bit of a surprise as Don’t Make Me Go does not end in the way you’re probably expecting.
The movie stars John Cho as Max, the single father of Wally, and it chronicles his attempts to teach his daughter a few life lessons on a road trip they make together. The reason for their trip won’t come as a surprise to you as trailers have already given this away. Max has a brain tumour and as doctors don’t think his chances of survivability are good, he decides to have one last adventure with his daughter to “fix things” for her before he passes away.
He doesn’t only hit the road with his daughter to teach her some valuable lessons, however. Wally has never met her mother Nicole (Jen Van Epps), so Max decides to introduce the two of them, in the hope that the woman who abandoned Wally as a youngster will be there for her after he has gone.
There’s only one problem: Max doesn’t tell Wally about the real reasons for their road trip. As such, she doesn’t know that he is dying and she doesn’t know that she is on the way to meet her mother. As expected, this is the cause for a lot of high emotion when she finally learns the truth.
Does Nicole accept her daughter? Does Wally forgive her father for lying to her? Does Max make it to the end of the movie? I’m not going to reveal the answers here but after spending time with these characters, you will be keen to know how it all pans out. Max and Wally are both engaging and likeable and you will want a happy ending for them both. But as that happy ending isn’t guaranteed – as Wally has already warned us – you will likely have a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach as you get near to the story’s conclusion.
Before we get to the movie’s finale, there is the opportunity to be distracted from whatever terrible turn is in wait for us. We get to spend time with father and daughter as he teaches Wally to drive, talks to her about finding ‘the one,’ and prepares her for her faraway wedding celebration by giving her some dancing lessons. They also end up at a nudist beach together although this wasn’t part of his itinerary for teaching his daughter about the finer points of life!
The moments they share together are enjoyable to watch and this is as much down to the talents of Cho and Isaac as it is about the fun but occasionally melodramatic script. It’s easy to forget the foreshadowing of the plot as the movie, for the most part, is an engaging family drama about two people travelling together across the American southland. They get into a variety of misadventures along the way, which include Wally’s hair-raising attempt at driving, and there are plentiful scenes of them bonding over music and one another’s individual dreams.
Their road trip adventure is comfortingly familiar – the world isn’t short of movies about family members taking a journey together – but just like the Mark Wahlberg movie Joe Bell, this one is laced with tragedy. We know that there are bigger stakes at play here beyond Max’s attempt to get along with his daughter as their trip is one that could end at any moment because of his health condition. In preparation for this, you will probably have a handkerchief at the ready.
Unfortunately, when the ending does come, you may feel more angry than sad. The movie is mostly a decent watch but the final 20 minutes will likely frustrate you. There is a point to the conclusion so it’s not exactly a cheap ploy by screenwriter Vera Herbert to mess with your head. But as there are no major clues about what the story’s ending might be (as I mentioned earlier, it’s not the ending you expect), you may be left reeling, for all of the wrong reasons. To find out more, you really need to see the movie yourself or read our Ending Explained article.
Despite the surprise twist at the climax, this won’t be a waste of your time, even though it’s not as emotionally impactful as it could have been. The strong playing of the leads lifts the sometimes half-baked script and the overall quality of the production is pretty good. So, even if this doesn’t fully deliver as either a cancer movie or a moving family drama, you might still enjoy the ride, even if you hate the final destination!
Read More: Don’t Make Me Go Ending Explained
Verdict - 6.5/10