Spending your summer vacation on a road trip with your dad might not sound like the best way to celebrate time off school. But in the new movie Don’t Make Me Go, premiering at Tribeca Film Festival on Monday, June 13, bored teenager Wally is at least going to learn how to drive — before her dad turns their lives and family upside down.
Directed by Hannah Marks (Turtles All the Way Down, Banana Split), Don’t Make Me Go follows single dad Max (played by John Cho) after he discovers he has a terminal illness. “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,” the official synopsis reads. And so the two set off for the road trip of a lifetime from California to New Orleans, where he intends to go to his 20th college reunion and reunite Mia with her mom, who they haven’t seen in years. (Below, Teen Vogue is excited to share some exclusive images from the film.)
“I loved the idea of making a father-daughter movie — it’s such an important relationship yet it’s rarely portrayed as the central story on-screen,” Hannah Marks tells Teen Vogue. “I also loved how it equally balanced the teenage perspective and the adult perspective. I related to both characters deeply.”
Marks says she was drawn to Cho for his “versatility” after seeing the actor deftly take on both comedic and dramatic roles. (Plus, he was in a band, just like his character in the movie.) Mia, meanwhile, is a newcomer, and this is her first major movie role. “I’m honored to be a part of the beginning of her long career,” Marks says. “Her innocence, intelligence and thoughtfulness made her perfect for Wally.”
Mia, who is now 18, first auditioned for the role at 16 and cried immediately after reading the script since she’s close with her parents in real life. The project has larger significance for her, too. “Don’t Make Me Go is a coming of age movie, and filming it was my coming of age,” Mia tells Teen Vogue. “I turned 17 during shooting and I also graduated high school. I was surrounded by so many talented and hardworking people that I could look up to and learn from, and everyone was kind and warm and made it so much fun.”
That includes Cho, who helped her feel comfortable on a big set in New Zealand. “John really felt like my dad when we were filming. There’s no other way to describe it. I couldn’t have anticipated the bond we formed,” she says. “I remember on the last day of shooting, when they called ‘cut,’ we were sitting in the car and John turned to me and said ‘now, we’re just friends.’ Because we really were father and daughter for those couple of months.”