Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 18, 2021)
Based on a true story, 2020’s All My Life offers an update on the model popularized by 1970’s Love Story. Here we get a romance that may or may not end in tragedy.
After Jenn Carter (Jessica Rothe) visits a sports bar with her friends, she meets Solomon “Sol” Chau (Harry Shum Jr.) and the pair begin to date. This leads them to fall in love and plan a future together.
However, a dark cloud resides on the horizon, as Sol gets diagnosed with liver cancer. This terminal illness alters plans so they rush to achieve their dream wedding while they still can.
As I wrote that synopsis, I wondered how many beans to spill, as the second paragraph could fall into spoiler territory. While Sol’s illness materializes officially about 30 minutes into the movie, he doesn’t truly confront mortality until about halfway into the story. However, the film’s trailers sold the “doomed groom” side hard, so I don’t think my overview ruins anything.
Not that I’m sure I could “ruin” a movie this lousy and cliché anyway. In theory, the movie’s reflections of an actual relationship should add gravity, but instead, I feel like the real-life people depicted here should feel insulted that their tale got reduced to Hallmark Channel-caliber schmaltz.
Really, Life often plays more like romantic comedy than weepy drama. While the film involves dark topics, it lacks much gravity, as we never feel the characters’ pain.
Much of this stems from the seemingly trivial focus on the wedding. It just feels like such a waste for the participants to concentrate so much on a big ceremony. Why not have a simple event and then use the money for an epic honeymoon?
Granted, I get that the fact Life comes based on real events limits the filmmakers’ ability to vary this plan. True to life as the narrative may become, it still comes across like a flawed choice, as we spend more time with frivolous wedding planning than we do with character development or drama.
It also doesn’t help that Life makes Sol and Jenn painfully cloying and downright annoying. Much of the film depicts their “adorable” antics, as they become the perfect couple with the perfect life.
While this intends to make us love Sol and Jenn – and thus feel their pain when Sol gets sick – instead we find ourselves turned off by their lack of reality. The movie makes them such a cartoon romantic ideal that it seems impossible to care much about what happens.
Shum and Rothe help sell the material and make the leads less irritating than they could be. Unfortunately, they can’t overcome the trite, one-dimensional depiction of the story, so this ends up as a poor stab at a weeper.