REVIEW

Based on a true story, All My Life could have been a classic weepie, but instead it's a charmer

All My Life (M, 91 minutes)

3 stars

Ryan Murphy's Glee, an all-singing all-dancing television series about a high school glee club - a school choir for the non-Americans - was so white-hot for a while there. Its audience numbers, the world over, were huge, and the songs its cast covered or mashed up filled the music charts.

The cast of All My Life, directed by Marc Meyers. Picture: Universal pictures

The cast of All My Life, directed by Marc Meyers. Picture: Universal pictures

Harry Shum Jr. played Mike Chang in Glee, and for the show's first season you barely knew he was there, mostly dancing in the background. As his more flashy cast mates began to self-destruct and, well, die off, his role beefed up.

Anyone predicting the future of that first season cast of Glee probably couldn't have picked what might become of them by the year 2020, but one of the most surprising outcomes might be that Shum Jr. has maybe the most consistent and promising career.

He was the dreamboat waiting for Gemma Chan at the end of Crazy Rich Asians, he played up his martial arts skills in the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel Sword of Destiny and also in five years of the fantasy TV series Shadowhunters.

In All My Life, he gets to show off those singing and dancing skills, but mostly, he displays considerable range as a performer of depth and subtlety.

All My Life is billed as being "based on a true love story".

Solomon Chau (Shum Jr.) and Jennifer Carter (Jessica Rothe) meet in a bar one night when Sol's pals (Kyle Allen, Jay Pharaoh) embarrassingly try to pick up Jen's friends (Marielle Scott, Keala Settle).

The attraction between the pair is immediate, and out on a jogging date the next morning, Jen can't help but lean in for a first kiss when Sol sings her favourite song - Oasis's Don't Look Back In Anger - to her.

Much of the first third of the film is a Nicholas Sparks-level series of adorable scenes of early romance and budding love.

This tugging on the audience's heartstrings is important so we're as devastated as the young couple when the pain in Sol's side turns out to be a tumour on his liver.

Life goes on for the two around his treatment, and the pair move in together, and Jen encourages Sol to drop the office job he is miserable in and pursue his passion for cooking.

Sol's cancer, however, has plans for Sol, and their doctor suggests the cancer treatment plan move to a "quality of life" plan.

While Sol and Jen individually work through the overwhelming idea of his approaching death, their friends charmingly plan the wedding the pair can no longer afford thanks to their medical bills, and their local community pitches in to crowdsource the wedding costs.

The real life Sol and Jen had planned their wedding for 21 August 2015, but the date ending up being Sol's funeral. The story of the couple's crowd-sourced nuptials went viral on social media and first-time screenwriter Todd Rosenberg's script based on their story was picked up by Universal.

Traditionally the domain of Hallmark or other made-for-television fare, Rosenberg's focus on the love story rather than box-of-tissues grimness coupled with director Marc Meyers' light touch elevates this from weepie to charmer.

I won't give them away, but some of their choices towards what might have been the darker end of the film left me expecting an ugly cry but instead, leaving me with the warm and fuzzies.

Particularly touching though is the footage of the couple's real-life wedding dance over the end credits.

The producers assemble an interesting supporting cast, with the likes of Saturday Night Live's Jay Pharaoh providing the occasional comic relief.

Whatever the filmmakers might have been originally planning with the supporting best-friend roles, they succeeded in making me nostalgic for those days of your early 20s when you made friends easily and also made the effort to actually spend time with them. Ah, happier times.

Jessica Rothe has proven herself adept at comedy and horror in the two Happy Death Day films, and like Shum Jr. is given the chance here to display a broad range, charming throughout but very strongly delivering some dark emotional moments.

This story From weepie to outright charmer first appeared on The Canberra Times.