Monday, 23 November 2020

All My Life (2020) - Movie Review

As someone who holds no qualms about giving their personal, don’t-care-what’s-affecting-it perspective about whatever movie they just happened to see, you’d think that being emotionally compromised wouldn’t be an issue. And yet, I must be honest once again and admit that I got really worked up while watching this. To the point where I think I metamorphosed into one of those rom-com clichés that I take great joy out of roasting, feeling so over-emotional in response to what I’m experiencing that I had to immediately tell my boyfriend how much I love them in my usually verbose fashion. With how often I rail against the tropes of the genre, I’m quite surprised that this managed to affect that much, especially since it’s not really anything all that nuanced or revolutionary.

An illness-adjacent romance story (I refuse to classify this as ‘sick-lit’ because this is directly based off of real-life couple Jennifer Carter and Solomon Chau), this is fairly standard as far as what one can expect from modern-day romance. A lot of misty-eyed idealism surrounding the notion of true love, combined with the message of living each day to its fullest that comes packaged with just about anything to do with death. The only real diversion from the formula is a little Silver Linings Playbook moment where Jen (Happy Death Day’s Jessica Rothe) basically intercepts the third-act break-up and prevents it from happening, something that makes me love this film just that little bit more for including.

That itself ends up being a signifier of just how pure this film’s idea of love is, amplified by how good the main couple’s acting is. Rothe as the junk food-eating romantic pretty much gouges into the audience’s tear ducts, nailing every moment of adoration, strength-for-two and even her own idealism cracking under the pressure (quite possibly one of the most heart-breaking things to witness someone else go through). As for Harry Shum Jr. as Sol, the realist chef showing actual realism instead of just pessimism wearing its skin, he puts his song-and-dance experience with Glee to good use here, he handles the mortality blues aspect of the character in a thankfully-grounded fashion, and his chemistry with Rothe is staggering to behold. Watching them discuss Sol losing his sense of taste is one of the hardest hits I’ve experienced all year.

For as many cute moments that occur, from Sol’s mate (played by Jay Pharoah) trying to impress girls with a story about his pinkie toe, to Keala Settle as a barista at a café with a vinyl section (I’m pretty sure hearing Keala sing on-film again added a year to my lifespan), to them crowdsourcing the money for their wedding on GoFundMe, it’s the underlying tone that likely got the best of me. In sharp contrast to the idea that a real person died to inspire this major motion picture production, this is easily one of the least cynical films I’ve seen in quite a while. Even within its own genre, which frequently runs into problems with emotional manipulation in how much they prefer feels over reals, this film’s sheer adherence to the idea that true love not only exists, but is one of the most powerful forces on this plane of existence, is quite remarkable.

On the strength of the acting, there isn’t a single drop in its efficacy to sell that idea, and on the strength of Todd Rosenberg’s script, whatever artificiality may exist in the writing never finds room to breathe amidst the beautiful natural and occasionally poetic ways it gets expressed. I may take pleasure out of mocking the genre’s standard and how cliché it is, but as a self-confessed idealist, that doesn’t mean I’m entirely immune to that standard when it’s done with this much passion. And for those who would willingly go after a film on the basis that it will make them cry out of happiness rather than sadness, I’d definitely have to recommend this one.

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