CAST: Jessica Rothe, Harry Shum Jr., Michael Masini, Chrissie Fit, Greg Vrotsos, Jay Pharaoh, Ever Carradine, Marielle Scott, Kyle Allen, Mario Cantone, Keala Settle, Josh Brener, Jon Rudnitsky
RUNNING TIME: 92 mins
BASICALLY…: An engaged couple (Rothe and Shum Jr.) find their wedding plans thrown into doubt after a devastating diagnosis…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
For any couple approaching their wedding day, the worst thing that could happen has nothing to do with the wrong dresses arriving or the caterers messing up the cake order, but instead it’s receiving the news that such a union probably won’t last very long. That’s what real-life couple Solomon Chau and Jenn Carter faced when, in 2015, they received the devastating news that cancer was only going to give them 128 days of married bliss, but that didn’t deter them from putting on their dream wedding, in a news story that made audiences across the world weep with sadness and joy at the same time.
The movie based on the couple’s all-too-brief union, All My Life, is definitely a Hollywood-ified version of the events, complete with enough sweetness to kill off numerous diabetics in one go, but it also shows the true power of hiring actors who are charming and charismatic enough to guide the audience through the varying levels of cheese.
The film starts off with Jenn (Jessica Rothe) and Solomon (Harry Shum Jr.) meeting in a bar and deciding they like each other enough to start seeing each other, and soon that attraction turns into a relationship, and soon that relationship inspires a proposal that’s straight out of the climax of any romantic-comedy. All seems well and good with the two lovers, until Sol is hospitalised and diagnosed with liver cancer; they decide to postpone their nuptials until Sol makes a full recovery, but they are soon encouraged to organise the wedding of their dreams anyway, thanks to an online GoFundMe campaign and generous patrons who contribute towards the $20,000 costs. However, since fate is often a cruel mistress, none of it might not even matter, especially as Sol’s condition appears to get worse.
The film doesn’t tend to bog itself down with tear-jerking sentiment, opting instead for a consistently lighter tone which both helps and weakens the overall impact. We spend a lot of time with Jenn and Sol as a couple, going through initial steps from their first date at a farmer’s market to negotiating terms for moving in together to Sol transitioning from his dead-end desk job to working as a chef, in scenes that lean heavily toward bright, cheery romance and are bolstered by the burning chemistry between Rothe and Shum Jr., who both excel at bringing their natural charisma to their roles. However, when things start to look a lot more solemn, the film doesn’t suddenly switch gears and become a completely different, much more emotional drama; for a film about a couple where one of them is dying from cancer, it’s not nearly as downbeat as you might expect, as there is a consistency to the light tone which sometimes comes across as a little disingenuous when it’s treating serious illnesses like cancer as though it’s pretty minor in the grand scale of things.
The film is a radically different direction for filmmaker Marc Meyers, whose previous theatrical film was coming-of-age thriller My Friend Dahmer, a movie that explored the teen life of the infamous serial killer; needless to say, there’s nothing near as dark as that in All My Life, and that’s kind of why it doesn’t entirely work. When bringing something serious like cancer into the conversation, there needs to be a healthy balance between the light-hearted nature of the central romance and a sensitive account of the turmoil that the real Solomon Chau went through with his own treatment, and this movie clearly favours one of those over the other which can make it come across as a little insensitive. It’s very possible that this is exactly how things went down in real-life, where the couple didn’t let the devastation ruin their love for each other, but in the guise of a movie there needs to be more than that so it can tell a well-rounded story in its own right, with a fair amount of honesty and conviction rather than succumbing to old-school Hollywood cheese.
The film might not be as perfect as it’s clearly hoping to be, but it’s a sweet enough ride to keep you going, especially when you’re watching two incredibly likeable performances by Jessica Rothe and Harry Shum Jr. who are so good together that half the time you’re not even paying attention to the film’s more obvious flaws.
SO, TO SUM UP…
All My Life is a romantic drama that’s sweet to a fault, clearly favouring a more light-hearted tone despite some devastating developments which can make it seem a little insensitive at times, but the good-hearted cheese is held together by two charismatic lead performances by Jessica Rothe and Harry Shum Jr., whose chemistry is strong enough to carry you through its glaring flaws.