I’m not the biggest fan of tragedies being disguised as romantic comedies. You know the kind, the quirky, funny romance that evolves from meet-cute to tragic accident or situation without any warning. Thankfully, I knew what I was getting into with Universal’s All My Life. Based on the real-life story of Solomon Chau and Jennifer Carter, directed by Marc Meyers, and written by Todd Rosenberg, All My Life is very open about the sadness that will unfold in the film, but also that it will offer resiliency at the same time.
Starring Harry Shum Jr. and Jessica Rothe as Solomon and Jennifer, respectively, All My Life follows the journey of an engaged couple who make the difficult decision to accelerate their wedding in the wake of Sol’s diagnosis with terminal liver cancer. While it may seem like a spoiler, this is how the film was marketed, and with the “twist” of fate revealed from the beginning, the romantic comedy tropes the film uses, in the beginning, serve as an easy opening to a story filled with emotion. That said, as a viewer, it means that while you expect the hardship, watching their romance begin and evolve into a proposal is filled with tension as you wait for Sol to receive his diagnosis.
In the beginning, Sol and Jenn are a sweet, fun-loving couple who meet in a bar and click instantly. Now newly engaged, they begin to plan their life together and their wedding. But when Sol is diagnosed with terminal liver cancer in December, their plans for a summer wedding become impossible, and the remainder of their life together begins a race against time as their friends and family do what they can, including launching an online fundraiser, to help them fulfill their dream wedding in less than a month. As we watch their wedding take shape, we all watch Jenn and Sol’s commitment to each other, only deepen, confront mortality, and learn how to value every moment.
As a film, All My Life is ultimately what we’ve seen before. While it is based on a true story, it has graced romance and drama for a long time. We know where the story is going from the beginning, we know Sol’s faith, and ultimately, we know that the story was made to warm the heart even in tragedy. That said, while it fits into the box set by its genre, All My Life is executed with a loving and kindness that allows the audience to see the film’s leads excel. Being exactly what viewers expect isn’t a bad thing, so long as it can deliver on the emotional highs and lows it promises to deliver.
The film succeeds in building an empathetic bond with its audience due in large part to Sol’s journey, brought to life by Harry Shum Jr., and the use of narration throughout the film told from Jenn’s perspective. For his role, Shum Jr. brings a warmth that is palpable in every scene. From his humor to his sadness, Shum Jr. is able to pull the viewer in and keep you in his emotions. His charisma and talent sings off the screen and makes me ache for him to lead a film where he gets a happy ending. For her part, Rothe brings energy to every scene but truthfully pales compared to Shum Jr.’s Sol. While he outshines her, Rothe’s voice as our narrator adds an emotional level to the film’s opening and close that works to draw the viewer deeper into their story.
As all sad stories packaged for Hollywood have, the film’s call to action is to appreciate every moment. Every small touch, step, and success. Ultimately, All My Life isn’t a film about love so much as it is a story about needing to never take those you love and your life in general for granted. It calls you to celebrate the small moments that are easy to forget and, in that way, in a year filled with so much pain, sticks with you. While All My Life doesn’t offer hope, it does offer resiliency. Yes, death happens. Tragedy happens. But it’s what you do in the face of it, how you grow from it, and how you survive after the loss that this film looks to talk about.
All My Life isn’t phenomenal, but it is effective. The film executes the romantic drama formula and does so, thanks largely to Shum Jr.’s performance. That said, there is still a bleakness to the film that may make it hard to watch for those suffering through grief. Overall though, All My Life is worth the emotional watch for Harry Shum Jr. alone.
All My Life is in theaters on December 4, 2020.
All My Life
- Rating - 6/106/10
.All My Life isn’t phenomenal, but it is effective. The film executes the romantic drama formula and does so, thanks largely to Shum Jr.’s performance. That said, there is still a bleakness to the film that may make it hard to watch for those suffering through grief. Overall though, All My Life is worth the emotional watch for Harry Shum Jr. alone.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.