ALL MY LIFE— 3 STARS
There’s a little moment early in All My Life that gets the romantic flutters going in a genuine and wholesome way. It’s not the typical “meet cute” or some grand gesture or embrace. It’s the simplicity of one look, scripted and captured on camera as something that would have been set to a Donna Troy do-wop classic nearly sixty years ago. Today, you get an Oasis cover instead. Paint this next picture.
Jessica Rothe’s Jennifer Carter has just enjoyed a unique first date with Harry Shum Jr.’s Solomon Chau where they met up for a park jog before strolling through a weekend pop-up market of food trucks and urban farmers. In their mozzying, the two get separated and the camera stays on Jessica. She realizes she’s lost Sol in the light crowd. We see her darting, searching look of smiling curiosity morph ever so slightly into a furrow of regretful worry that comes from truly missing someone.
Jennifer spots him, and it’s Sol looking right at her as she looks for him. He knows she was looking for him. She knows he saw her looking with that mounting little worry. It’s a special kind of eye contact with a little more heartbeat behind it beyond receiving only a desirable smile. There is zero embarrassment on either side, just affection and instant connection.
This look and moment, which gets reminisced later as part of wedding vows, is the beginning of a very light and lovely shared journey in All My Life. From this opener onward, the two stars have each other, and us, hooked. Based on a touching true story of temporary time impeding on a forever kind of love, this approachable and endearing romance stockpiles the smiles to brighten all the trials and tribulations that follow.
LESSON #1: FIND A PARTNER YOU CAN BRUSH YOUR TEETH WITH— Normally, finding someone that makes you laugh is an opening qualification for many relationships. That’s almost too easy and not really enough. Finding someone who can cook is a great perk, especially when Sol Chau turns out to be an aspiring chef. Still, a real catch is when you can find someone you can comfortably share domestic mundanities with who makes even those trivial activities cute. Find that and you’ll be pooping with the door open in no time.
That’s Sol and Jennifer after their relationship enters the cohabitation stage with move-in rules that become artful and romantic negotiations. After a flash mob proposal (apropo from Shum’s Glee experience) sprung by their mutual friends (including Jay Pharoah, Chrissie Fit, and Marielle Scott), the engaged Jennifer and Sol work to adjust their jobs and save money for a perfect wedding. Things move swimmingly until Sol begins experiencing regular side pain that turns into aggressive and chronic liver cancer. Swimming turns into a sprint that neither can afford or finish without help.
LESSON #2: THE GENEROSITY OF FRIENDS AND STRANGERS ALIKE— To get assistance accelerating the preparation timeline amid unfathomable circumstances, those mutual friends start a GoFundMe account that raises thousands of dollars to make it all happen. All the while, through tests and treatments, Jennifer and Sol find strength from each other to step up with loving support to handle every setback. When all the gifts and favors come together, they are overcome with thankfulness for not only the gestures, but the time given to them by so many others. Sure, only two things are needed for a perfect wedding, that being the two lovers coming together, but rest is sure nice too.
LESSON #3: NOW OR NEVER— All My Life and the true story of Solomon Chau and Jennifer Carter emphasizes so many invisible constraints of time and togetherness. The Rothe voiceovers, no doubt, do get plentiful without swinging too heavy of a Hallmark-level sledgehammer of manufactured mush. Everything can indeed change in a day. Do value them because they are so few. Have nothing to do with putting off things for later by living for the now. Do that with someone else and be loved. Her narrated words aren’t wrong.
With this rousing spirit present, All My Life brims with welcome optimism. With the side ventures of good food and good friendships along the way, this is a true noble effort with some delightful bonuses. That optimism, though, represents the highest peak of this movie from director Marc Meyers (My Friend Dahmer) and a debut screenplay by Todd Rosenberg. That’s plenty for the honorable intentions, but, to some degree, matters are a little too short, sweet, and chaste. The movie lacks a little extra passionate heat, and Meyers and Rosenberg leave more than a few tears on the table from being a full-on duct dumper and tissue box destroyer. Yes, no one roots for a true overwrought crusher, but the greater squeezes do create a better hold.