You could call it a lover’s triangle of sorts: Jennifer loves Solomon. Sol loves Jennifer. But cancer won’t let the lovers be.
The relationship didn’t start out that way, naturally. Cancer wasn’t in the mix when they first met in the bar—Sol trying desperately to be charming and witty, with Jenn smiling at him in spite of herself. They dated for a while and then moved in together—a move, Jenn suggested, that just made sense. Sol hated his job and wanted to be a chef. By saving the money, perhaps he’d be able to quit that much sooner.
Jenn and Sol grew closer. And then one day, shortly after Thanksgiving, Sol popped the question in front of all their serenading friends. It was just like a scene from a schmaltzy romance movie.
The engagement ring was barely out of the box before, late one night, Sol collapsed on the floor on the way to the bathroom. At first, the doctors thought it was just an ulcer. But a deeper look showed a tumor down in the gut. Doctors removed it, along with a third of Sol’s liver. Afterward, he joked that if they got more bad news, they should buy a dog.
But the physicians, initially, were happy: There’s no reason, they said, to not plan the wedding. No reason to worry about a life cut short.
Six weeks later, Jenn comes home and finds that Sol bought a dog. “His name’s Otis,” he says.
And Otis, of course, isn’t the only thing that showed up.
The movie begins with Jenn telling the audience that each of us will get, if we’re lucky, 27,375 days. “How many days do we really remember anyway?” she asks. Sol encouraged Jenn—and all of their mutual friends—to live every day as one to remember.
But Jenn gave Sol something, too: The courage to face the daunting gauntlet of cancer treatment in front of them. When Sol’s ready to give up, Jenn encourages him to continue. She reminds them that even though they’re not yet married, they’re in this thing together.
“You don’t get to choose when I tap out,” she says.
“Do I get to choose?” an angry Sol says.
“Not alone,” Jenn tells him. “Not anymore.”
Their friends, and Jenn’s mom, offer whatever support they can. In fact, they spearhead a GoFundMe project to give them the wedding of their dreams on the quick. Friends and strangers alike funnel money into the wedding, which indeed turns out to be a day, and night, to remember.
Given the film’s themes—love, marriage and possible death—you might expect to see a pastor or priest, or hear about some thoughts about God and the afterlife, somewhere along the way. What’s remarkable about All My Life is that any sort of religion or spirituality is, as far as I can tell, completely absent.
Jenn kisses Sol on their first “date.” We don’t know how many hours or days or months it takes for them to sleep together, but it doesn’t take long in the movie’s obligatory, five-minute dating montage to see the couple cuddling between the sheets. And when they decide to move in together, Jenn extracts several promises from Sol—including that they’ll regularly have “sex before dinner.” (The two begin kissing and Sol pulls her into the bedroom, suggesting that it must be about dinner time.)
Other friends have active love lives too. Some meet by flirting with each other at a bar. One of Sol’s pals (Dave) waxes poetic about Sol’s old couch—staying that he spent many a night on the couch when he was “between places.” “You mean between girlfriends,” another pal corrects him. Someone quips that the couch might be Dave’s longest-lasting relationship. One female friend teases another about having a crush on a bartender.
Women wear clothes that bare both midriff and cleavage. Sol cavorts, jokingly, in a red speedo. (He goes shirtless elsewhere, too.) Jenn wears a bikini.
Before Sol receives his cancer diagnosis, we see him occasionally wince in pain and grab his side. It culminates with his fall on the way to the bathroom, which launches a trip to the emergency room.
That fall is the only “violence” we technically see, though the cancer is clearly beating Sol up from the inside. One of Sol’s friends pretty much vanishes from the movie for a while: He was traumatized by watching his father die from cancer not too long before.
We hear about 10 misuses of God’s name and a very light dusting of some other profanities, including “b–ch,” “h—” and “p-ss.”
Jenn, Sol and pretty much all their friends don’t mind imbibing. Most of them meet at a bar, after all, and we regularly see people drinking wine, beer, champagne and other drinks. (We hear a reference to Moscow Mules, a cocktail.) One friend (again Dave) opens up his own bar. When Sol blames his lack of wit on the margarita he drank, Jenn points out that “James Bond is always hammered, and he’s always witty and charming.”
Sol dashes to a bathroom to urinate. We hear about people needing to “pee.”
All My Life is based on the real-life romance of Solomon Chau and Jennifer Carter. In fact, when the movie’s trailer was released, Jenn also released a letter about her real-world relationship with Sol.
“We were two very ordinary individuals who found ourselves in a very extraordinary situation,” she wrote. “We had the choice to either give in to the fear that Sol’s cancer prognosis had laid upon us, or, to move forward with every ounce of love and support we’d be given, making the most of our time we had left together.”
Given the movie’s true-life bona fides, you’d think it’d have a little more life itself. Alas.
All My Life does keep its romantic nose pretty clean by 21st-century standards. Sex is suggested only through a bit of bare-shoulders, under-the-covers cuddling. There’s no violence to speak of. Even the language isn’t too bad.
But if you’re looking for a by-the-book, God-honoring relationship, you won’t find it here. The couple has sex and cohabitates before they officially seal the deal. And even when they do formalize their relationship, it’s a purely secular ceremony, officiated not by a pastor, but by their pals.
And while yes, it’s clear that Jenn and Sol love each other, their love feels like a Thomas Kinkaid painting: pretty, predictable, pedantic. The infusion of the threat of untimely death might ramp up the melodrama, but it doesn’t infuse much real tension or emotion into the film. Even as Jenn implores us to live each day so we’ll remember it, this film is utterly forgettable.
All My Life, as a romance, may work for some. And as I mentioned, it could’ve been worse. But I left with little love for this love story.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.