Review: A Cancer Love Story, All My Life Manages to Suck the Life Out of Every Tone-Deaf Moment

Let me lay out this infuriating exercise as simply as I can: All My Life is based on the true story of young couple Jennifer and Solomon—played by Jessica Rothe (the Happy Death Day movies) and Harry Shum Jr. (Crazy Rich Asians)—who fall in love at the beginning of the movie, and at the 30-minute mark of the film’s 85-minute running time, they get engaged and find out Shum’s character has liver cancer. For those with your stopwatches out, at the one-hour mark, the pair are getting married. If nothing else, this movie is on time for its act changes. But the leads aren’t the main problem of this latest work from director Marc Meyers (We Summon the Darkness, Human Capital); it’s all the rest of it, too.

All my Life
Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

The bulk of this film doesn’t really matter; it’s a paint-by-number love story with a disease-of-the-week twist. Do I feel terrible that this is based on real events? You bet. Does that fact make me want to give it a pass because it’s likely not going to end well for one of the characters? We’ll never know because the film isn’t really about Sol’s cancer. It’s about how to conceive and plan the perfect wedding in just a few weeks using other people’s money. You see, when it becomes clear that Sol’s treatment is going to eat up their wedding funds, Jennifer and Sol decide to postpone their marriage until they can afford it again. But their friends aren’t having it, and they organize a crowd-sourced fundraising page and several events to get the couple their wedding at a reduced price (which I believe is stated to be $20,000). Needless to say, they raise a lot more than their goal, with a great deal also being donated, and instead of getting married at City Hall in whatever town they live in, they feel it’s okay to collect this money and use it for…centerpieces.

I’ll admit, my mind wandered more than a few times during All My Life. I kept thinking “Today, who would be okay watching a couple raise and spend that much money for a wedding they otherwise couldn’t afford Just Because They Want To!” There are millions of people in the U.S. alone who are struggling to make ends meet, and I’m guessing this $20,000 would really help out, but let’s instead give a portion of it to Mario Cantone (who plays the manager of the place they are renting at a discount to hold their reception). Kill me.

Other strange things in this movie: Solomon is a would-be chef who has quit is computer-oriented job and gone to work as a line chef at a local high-end restaurant, where he’s making a big impression. But a side effect of his chemo treatment is that he loses his sense of taste, which should be a fairly big deal and could have led to one of the film’s most emotionally resonant moments. Instead, it’s mentioned once and then basically ignored for the rest of the movie. Wha wha what?! This is the second most important thing in his life, and it’s treated like a minor inconvenience that won’t impact the rest of their lives together, should he survive.

And this is probably just me fixating on something stupid, but one of Sol’s friends is a dick. I don’t know the character’s name, but any time something serious happens in Sol’s life, this friend finds an excuse not to show up, and people actively talk about him not being there. When Sol first goes to the hospital, this friend is absent and there’s some vague discussion about him having PTSD from his dad’s prolonged death that “messed him up about hospitals.” What?! The fact that something is amiss with this guy feels like it’s building for the entire film, and guess what happens? Absolutely nothing. It’s never discussed in any detail and certainly never resolved. What the hell is going on here besides bad editing and/or underwritten characters (the script is by Todd Rosenberg, FYI). The fact that Jay Pharoah has been cast as the far more reliable friend means that like 10 other character actors turned you down, so don’t start giving all the angsty character-development material to another guy and then not tie up that thread.

But supporting players aren’t All My Life’s biggest issues. Rothe has proven herself to be one of the more charming and reliable new performers recently, but her taking on a role that requires her to get emotional and even cry several times just feels strange and doesn’t seem like a good fit for her, at least not working with such a subpar screenplay where she’s forced to recite such empty, cliche-riddled dialogue. So when it comes to her big emotional moments, it all feels phony and overdone because her lines are atrocious. Again, not to sound unfeeling (but if I must), but I honestly didn’t care by the end of this movie if Sol lived or died. I just wanted these self-obsessed, overspending people to leave my life as quickly as possible. And if the Grim Reaper is involved, so be it. I despised this film.

The film opens today in places where movie theaters are open.

Did you enjoy this post? Please consider supporting Third Coast Review’s arts and culture coverage by making a donation. Choose the amount that works best for you, and know how much we appreciate your support! 

Default image
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film ( and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.