Film Review: All My Life has enough appeal and charm to offset its overtly sugary packaging

Likely to appeal to the Nicholas Sparks crowd, All My Life is a particularly sweet (almost too much so for its own good) true story-inspired tearjerker that, in many ways, gets away with being so cookie cutter because – as we are informed in the opening monologue – we only remember the most beautiful and tragic moments of our lives, and therefore Marc Meyers‘ decision to quickly pace the central love story seems rather intentional.

Coming off the unnerving My Friend Dahmer, the horror film We Summon the Darkness, and the character drama Human Capital, Meyers doesn’t seem like the most obvious choice to helm something as saccharine as All My Life, but he seems to know the right glossy sheen and melodramatic tone to sell it all the same.  It certainly helps that he has charming talent like Jessica Rothe (Happy Death Day‘s resilient heroine) and Harry Shum Jr. (Crazy Rich Asians) fronting the material too, the pair letting their likability do the majority of the work as Jenn and Sol, a-very-much-in-love-couple who meet-cute, move in, and get engaged in the most rapid of screen-time spaces.

27,375 days is the alleged amount of time the average person lives, and given that Jenn aforementioned the fact that we only remember certain moments, the montage mentality Todd Rosenberg adopts for the script gives way for her and Sol’s accelerated union.  By the time they get engaged – which is an admittedly endearing sequence – we already know there’s a lingering tragedy to strike, so when Sol is admitted to hospital due to a tumour in his liver, we brace for the tissues.

All My Life is based on the real-life love story between Jennifer Carter and Solomon Chau, and though the film could be easily criticised for cliched dialogue and a certain emotional manipulation, there’s still a respect adhered to regarding their characters and their relationship.  Real-life footage of the couple on their wedding day plays towards the end of the film, driving home that what we witnessed had a modicum of truth to it, which in turn makes it all seem that much more effective as this was a couple that were very much in love with each other and fought through a situation that one hopes never to have to experience; sadly, Solomon passed away only 128 days after the wedding.

Whilst the film delights in many of the couple’s happy moments – there’s a cute toothbrush dance sequence that manages to feel adorably organic – and it’s nicely attired with colourful turns from SNL alum Jay Pharoah (as Sol’s best friend), The Greatest Showman‘s Keala Settle (as a bubbly barista), and Chrissie Fit and Marielle Scott (as Jenn’s supportive girlfriends), it’s smart enough to treat the more tragic narrative of Sol’s cancer with a delicacy as to not dismiss the ultimate crux of their story.  Shum Jr. wisely underplays it when his character succumbs to his sickness, and the film itself respects his legacy too by skipping over his passing directly, instead allowing Jenn’s uplifting eulogy to encourage audiences to embrace their life and live with hope and spontaneity.

Going into All My Life you’ll be unsurprised as to where it travels, and if you’re remotely cynical then it’ll prove even more painful than usual as it makes no apologies for how sugary it is.  Meyers is more than aware of how to operate his audience into psychological submission, but in a year like 2020, overt sugary cliches aren’t necessarily a bad thing when the packaging is as appealing as this.


All My Life is screening in Australian cinemas now

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.

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