The Vow had been the modern example of true love enduring in spite of terrible odds. All My Life is going to be the new recommended viewing for couples leaving the honeymoon phase and need a reality check on the joy and pain that comes with a life together no matter how short the journey.
Word of warning: this is a five-alarm Kleenex box film that aims to squeeze out as many (well-earned) tears as possible.
Jenn (Jessica Rothe) has a chance meeting with the charming Sol (Harry Shum Jr., Crazy Rich Asians) and they strike up a quick and loving relationship.
She sees the best in him and encourages Sol to pursue his passion as a chef instead of toiling away as a digital marketer. When Solomon receives some alarming medical news, the couple has to decide if they should postpone their future or embrace it in the present.
This is based on a true story so some liberties were taken, but debuting screenwriter Todd Rosenberg doesn’t go so wild with the script that it starts to lose a sense of reality. So yes, the flash mob big moment did actually happen and no, Jenn’s bridesmaids weren’t the officiants for the wedding.
Some of Rosenberg’s choices to alter for the film are curious. The actual wedding cost was $50,000, not $20,000 like the film implies. It seems like stating the higher amount would have been all the more impressive. And assorted family members like Solomon’s brothers don’t make the cut either.
Rosenberg also loses sight of Jenn beyond Sol’s caretaker. Early in the film, we learn Jenn is considering pursuing her masters in psychology. While we get several glimpses of Sol’s professional life there’s no insight on how Jenn can afford her impressive apartment.
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The script doesn’t offer a lot of resistance to Jenn and Sol’s journey from outsiders. Their support system barely wavers and is on it. That’s a sneaky great part of the film in showing how family and friends can be that village through all walks of life.
A minor subplot involving one of Sol’s absent close friends who already buried his father after a bout with cancer felt very authentic. In a positive sign, the cast is very diverse with Jay Pharaoh (Top Five) playing a key role as Sol’s best friend, Dave and Chrissie Fit (Pitch Perfect) and Marielle Scott (Lady Bird) as Jenn’s best friends.
I’ve been a major fan of Rothe from her work in the Happy Death Day franchise and she proves more than up to the challenge of tackling heavy drama. You can feel her anger as Jenn screams and pounds on her steering wheel and the heartfelt laughter in the quiet moments. Shum complements her well and they have terrific chemistry. Clearly that’s the most important element in a film with such serious undertones as if their chemistry feels flat nothing else would matter.
Director Marc Meyers stages some scenes that are very thoughtfully done. Check the framing of the painting with Over Come in the middle when Jenn and Sol have a tense argument or Jenn walking against the guidance of a one way sign to comfort Sol. Meyers largely paces the film properly though it would have benefited from some time markers to help explain how much time is passing from scene to scene.
Meyers doesn’t try to wring every scene out for tears finding far more efficiency in having restraint in these overly weepy, emotional sequences.
Maybe All My Life’s biggest offense is not forking up enough money to get the K-Ci and Jo-Jo song to play at just one point in the film. Beyond that, this is a strong drama romance bound to connect with hopeful romantics.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
All My Life has a brief theatrical window before also being available on demand on Dec. 23.