Review by David Baldwin
Jennifer (Jessica Rothe, of the Happy Death Day series) and Sol (Harry Shum Jr., of Crazy Rich Asians and the Shadowhunters TV series) meet, fall in love, get engaged and start planning their happily ever after. But all of their planning changes in an instant when Sol finds out he has liver cancer.
All My Life is based on the true story of two young people from Toronto who fell in love and had all of their plans changed overnight after a terminal cancer diagnosis. The film takes some liberties with their story and changes many of the details (for one, Toronto is no longer a part of the story), but the main love story and cancer elements remain the same — as does the GoFundMe fundraiser that helped the pair get married substantially earlier than planned. It’s a beautiful, romantic and downright heartbreaking love story that will make you smile just as much as it will make you emotional.
When the film hits on those beats, it is truly wonderful. But when it misses them entirely, it just ends up feeling long-winded, melodramatic and far too cliched for its own good.
My biggest issue with All My Life is how choppy it feels. We get to see Jennifer and Sol’s love story play out for quite some time before the cancer diagnosis hits (including those tell-tale “movie moments” where Sol complains of a dull ache that he thinks is completely harmless). And while these moments are enjoyable and build up our investment in seeing this couple succeed, they feel aimless and directionless. We get precious few details about who they are outside of their relationship, and what we do find out is entirely surface level. The film pays special attention to both of their friend groups too, but we learn even less about them. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, until you realize that the film has introduced friendships with co-workers as well and…the bartender at their favourite bar? The emphasis on friendships gets pretty odd, and only gets more strange when certain payoffs happen in the film that are rendered completely meaningless when you realize there is zero context for their existence.
Thankfully, Rothe and Shum Jr. remain consistent even when the film is not. Their enthusiasm for the characters practically radiates through the screen. They have great chemistry and even better flirtatious banter. They are strong together, and even stronger when they are acting apart. When the film plays into their characters’ love story, they soar in the same ways that the best romantic on-screen couples do. When the film dips into melodrama, they do their best to rise above the lackluster writing. And above everything else, they sell the relationship and their love for one another in a way the film around them does not. What was clearly an easy cash-in on a tragic love story is saved by the wonderful lead performances from Rothe and Shum Jr. And if there is any reason at all to watch All My Life, it’s to see these two future mega stars in action. And for an easy cry if you are into that sort of thing.
All My Life hit theatres on Friday, December 4 and will be on PVOD later this month. Please ensure you are cautious and respect all Covid-19 protocols if you choose to see this film theatrically.