In 2017, I worked for a talent manager who asked me to find a role for one of his clients in a project that was currently casting. My eyes fell on a project that seemed to fit our client's criteria, so I started to read the script. Before I knew it, I found myself so moved by the story that I was teary-eyed at my desk. This is not a usual occurrence as I read on average half a dozen scripts a week, but it was clear that this was a remarkable story. This past week, while deciding which reviews to accomplish, I stumbled upon All My Life and was shocked to see that it finally got made! Obviously, I had to watch it.
Inspired by real events, All My Life follows a couple, Jenn Carter and Soloman 'Sol' Chau' who meet by chance one day, fall in love and are challenged when Sol is diagnosed with liver cancer. At this point, dear reader, you're probably thinking this will be a depressing film to file under Sweet November or Love Story, and you wouldn't be entirely wrong. But All My Life is a romantic and frequently touching film that blends the joys of this young, loving couple against tragic circumstances.
Writer Todd Rosenberg infuses the screenplay with enough light touches that the film manages to be both affecting and surprising. As we come into the height of awards season, All My Life was a welcome distraction with a central romance that will send you swooning before you empty a tissue box.
The film starts with a voiceover from our lead, Jenn Carter (Jessica Rothe), informing the audience that the average person lives 27375 days in a lifetime, and most of those days go unnoticed. We get stuck in a routine and neglect to celebrate moments of beauty. Yet, everything can change in a day. Jenn and her friends Megan (Marielle Scott) and Amanda (Chrissie Fit) enter a bar, buy a pitcher of beer, and as they converse, Jenn notices the handsome Sol (Harry Shum Jr.) looking over at her. He saunters over with his friends Dave (Jay Pharaoh) and Kyle (Kyle Allen), and while Dave delves into a story about his pinkie toe, Sol and Jennifer escape to the bar. It's instant chemistry, and they agree to meet the following day. Unsurprisingly, the romance blossoms.
Jenn and Sol date, encourage each other's ambitions, and eventually, Sol proposes. But, before they can get to their wedding day, he receives a life-changing diagnosis, and the pair, along with their ever-growing group of friends, contend with the reality of Sol's health. Jenn's friends Megan and Amanda determined to give Jenn and Sol the wedding of their dreams, start a gofundme page before Sol's health worsens. The campaign's result is generous, bringing a community together to help this couple make the most out of their time left together.
All My Life is endearing. Just watch as Jenn, on her first date with Sol, goes to look at a stall selling soaps. She picks up one after another, sniffing their scent as Sol watches her admiringly. Jenn finally looks up and struggles to find Sol until she looks right ahead at him, staring back at her, both their hearts melting. Their love leaps off the screen, and the performances by Jessica Rother and Harry Shum Jr. are earnest and charismatic. What may have otherwise been a typical tearjerker is instead elevated by the sincerity of their performances.
All the small details highlight their life together. Sol hates his office job and aspires to be a chef. After weeks of working late and neglecting even to cook, Jenn and her friends decide that Sol should cook a Friendsgiving dinner. It enlivens him and gives him back a sense of purpose, and after the meal, he gently whispers to Jenn that he's put in his two-week notice. They build each other up to be the best they can be, and the support never wanes.
The supporting cast are also given lots to do, and one particular sub-plot with Sol's friend Kyle (Kyle Campbell), who is unable to cope with his friend's illness after having watched his father pass away not long before, strikes deeply. Marc Meyers' direction makes excellent use of natural lighting, and Cinematographer Russ T. Alsobrook beautifully captures the heartbreaking moments from a distance, allowing the couple to be themselves and the audience separated as observers.
It works particularly well when Sol wants to stop treatment and Jenn objects. Still, because the camera remains at a distance, the couple's fight in the bathroom feels less exhaustive and more realistic as we stay in the living room like a friend deciding whether to leave or wait.
I was thankful to spend time with this couple when I read the script, and once again in this beautiful film. I hope you will too.
Now available to rent on Amazon/iTunes.