A lot or a little?
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that All My Life is based on the true story of a young couple who fall in love and plan to get married -- until a terminal cancer diagnosis derails their plans. While that might make it sound like an emotional roller coaster, it's not as teary as you'd think. Instead of making viewers sob over the idea of losing true love, the focus is on appreciating and valuing the time you have with those you love, as well as every single day of life in general. The core couple (Jessica Rothe and Harry Shum, Jr.) are grateful for what they have, and their love is shown mostly through kissing, although there's brief acknowledgement that they have a healthy sexual relationship. The neighborhood gathering place is a bar, so there's plenty of social drinking, but no one gets drunk. Strong language is very infrequent but includes "bitch" and "prick." With themes of communication, gratitude, and humility, this is a perfect pick for those who love to sigh and think about when their true love will appear.
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What's the story?
ALL MY LIFE follows Jenn (Jessica Rothe) and Solomon (Harry Shum, Jr.) as they meet and fall in love. But shortly after they get engaged, Sol receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, and the couple discovers that they have very little time left together. With the help of friends and family, they raise enough money within weeks to throw the wedding of their dreams, and they learn to cherish every moment of the time they have left together.
Is it any good?
If you decorate your walls with positive quotes, this life-affirming romance about death is for you. It's more than a satisfying full-blown love story; it's really an outlook. Based on a true story, it feels real. Of course, it's also a major studio release, so there's definitely some Hollywood polish. As played by Rothe and Shum, Jenn and Sol are the cutest, and much of the film is dedicated to watching their love story build. Unlike other couples in the "terminal romance" subgenre who must overcome a couple of obstacles, the only conflict these two really encounter is cancer.
That may be a little too straightforward and simple for some, but for teens who love love, it should be welcome. Jenn and Sol have a great relationship based on mutual respect. Jenn lays down "rules" and doesn't let Sol give up on his dreams or himself. The vows they express to each other are the hallmarks of what young people should be looking for to know whether they've found "the one." Where parents may want to offer some guidance, though, is in pointing out that while Jenn and Sol react to their challenges in a human way, they don't seem to have any flaws -- and that's not so realistic. On the other hand, setting viewers up to see Jenn as an aspirational figure works for the movie's overall message. The way she processes her grief is extraordinary, offering an ideal that's meant to inspire all of us to be grateful for what we have while we have it -- and let it nourish us when we don't. For older tweens and teens overwhelmed by frustrations, this positive, grounded story about pursuing love in sickness and in health may be just what the doctor ordered.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how All My Life deals with the subject matter of chronic illness -- in this case, cancer. Is it realistic or underplayed? How do movies tend to deal with serious sickness in general?
The movie is based on a true story. How does knowing it's based on real events change your perspective on the story? Do you think the characters are realistic, or too perfect? Why might filmmakers tweak the facts in a movie based on real life?
What other recent films can you think of that feature an Asian man as a romantic lead? Compare that to films made five years ago and beyond. Why is representation important?
The film acknowledges how helpless you feel when you have a friend who's sick. How do the friends use teamwork to deliver support -- and how does doing a good thing for Jenn and Sol actually help their friends? How does Sol's friend whose dad died from cancer react? How can we be there for our friends when we're scared of their reality?
- In theaters: December 4, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: March 2, 2021
- Cast: Jessica Rothe, Harry Shum Jr.
- Director: Marc Meyers
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Communication, Gratitude, Humility
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: brief language
- Last updated: March 2, 2021
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