As Hannah Marks’ Don’t Make Me Go opens, we’re treated to a sun-drenched beach when a voice-over warns us about the coming story. The voice-over goes silent, and the same character, Wally (Mia Isaac), utters the words, “What kind of beach did you find, dad?!” referring to Max Park, played by John Cho, as revealed they are on a nude beach.

As the story moves a few weeks back from the opening, we learn more about the dynamic between father and daughter. Max is uptight and constantly complains of pains. He’s trying to date, but Annie (Kaya Scodelario) isn’t the right person for him, though the story implies otherwise.

Wally is a modern teenager: very aware of the world, protective of her body, and seeking experiences. She is responsible, but not to Max’s high standards. Herbert’s story presents these two dynamically opposed characters who are more alike than not, and that’s the crux of Don’t Make Me Go’s issues.

Just as Wally is a non-committal risk taker to a relationship status that gets her grounded, Max is uncertain of his calculated and protective future; the character dynamic trends very closely to “oil and water.”

Yet, a road trip to New Orleans between father and daughter begins a likable melodrama that eventually caught my attention as Wally stands her ground. They manage to teach the other about themselves – they begin to open up on what would be a fractured teenage-type comedy in the 1990s and 2000s.

Cho has recently become a parent, giving him a different perspective than other efforts, presenting a tenderness and understanding as a parent while being afraid of what lies ahead for him. There’s a moment where father and daughter are in a New Mexico casino, and Max bets Wally her post-high school future on a roulette bet. Max is required to lay it down and Wally to relent. While I didn’t think those under 21 could get into a casino, the moment reveals more about our characters than any of the situations surrounding it.

The first two acts meander and don’t compel one to sit through the story. Though the familial debates are fascinating to watch unfold, the editing dallies like we’re on a dithering road trip for the sake of a road trip leading to the third act. The good intentions of the characters always meet with unintended consequences, and they don’t balance out in the end.

Don’t Make Me Go reminded me of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Teach Your Children” as the story wound down, specifically:

Teach your children well

Their father’s hell did slowly go by

And feed them on your dreams

The one they pick’s the one you’ll know by


And teach your parents well

Their children’s hell will slowly go by

And feed them on your dreams

The one they pick’s the one you’ll know by

I am not a parent, so I cannot adequately speak about the parent-child relationship. I know parents dream the best for us and try to set the best example possible. Children are responsible for showing their parents how well they succeeded by excelling in their dreams.

The film makes extensive use of Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger.” It is more prescient of the story; CSN&Y makes my case: the bad parent-child relationship, especially from a broken home where the responsibility of raising a child is on one parent, is undoubtedly captivating. Don’t Make Me Go knew what it wanted to say; it didn’t know what to do with the leftovers.

Don’t Make Me Go

Directed by Hannah Marks

Written by Vera Herbet

Starring John Cho, Mia Isaac

R, 109 mins, Prime Video