SYNOPSIS: When single father Max (John Cho) discovers he has a terminal disease, he decides to try and cram all the years of love and support he will miss with his teenage daughter Wally (Mia Isaac) into the time he has left with her. With the promise of long-awaited driving lessons, he convinces Wally to accompany him on a road trip from California to New Orleans for his 20th college reunion, where he secretly hopes to reunite her with her mother who left them long ago. A wholly original, emotional and surprising journey, Don’t Make Me Go explores the unbreakable, eternal bond between a father and daughter from both sides of the generational divide with heart and humor along for the ride. 


Directed by indie filmmaker Hannah Marks and written by Vera Herbert, Don’t Make Me Go is part tearjerker, part road trip. It’s a predictable drama about life and death although the unexpected twist in the end might put off some viewers.

Max Park (John Cho) is a single-father to his teenage daughter, Wally (Mia Isaac). At an age where she is feeling rebellious and yearns for freedom, Wally feels stifled by her dad’s overprotectiveness which kind of also hinders her relationship with her crush. When Max receives news from his doctor that he is suffering from a terminal brain tumour, he decides to bring Wally on a cross-country road trip to his college reunion in New Orleans. In actual fact, he is bringing her to meet Nicole, the mother she’s never known.

Although Don’t Make Me Go sounds like a melodrama, it isn’t. For the most part, the bulk of the story lies in the interaction and arguments between a flustered parent and a typical rebellious teenager. From a frustrated Max teaching Wally how to drive to Wally sneaking out with a motel staff to a party. But not to worry, there’s also some fun parts like Max imparting some necessary gambling skills to Wally at the casino to taking some obligatory photos at some roadside attractions and largely for the most part, life lessons to impart to his daughter before his demise.

However, it’s the spilling of Max’s pasts and secrets that makes this bittersweet drama lovely and genuine. Apparently, Max is quite an accomplished musician and singer but has to settle down on a far more mundane career because of his daughter. Then there is the painful meetup with Nicole and the raveling of his biggest secret that causes more outbursts and heart pain between Max and Wally.

Just when things start to turn more complicated and formulaic at the same time, the screenplay throws in a twist that you may or may not have realized from the narration. It’s ok if you are not sold on the story as Wally says. Still, the drama won us over especially the believable relationship between Cho and Isaac with both actors giving their very best to an otherwise mediocre screenplay. Kaya Scodelario has a small role as Max’s love interest and New Zealand actor, Josh Thomson shines as Max’s buddy. To sum up, Don’t Make Me Go has its moments and the performances of its main actors are genuinely flawless.


Review by Linus Tee