He went into digital marketing. She’s getting her master’s in psych. Could I make it any more obvious? Like many young couples, Sol and Jen must navigate the dynamics of being recently engaged, switching careers and living together. Unlike most couples, however, they have a limited amount of time to do so.
In Marc Myers’ recent film, “All My Life,” actors Jessica Rothe and Harry Shum Jr. deliver the true story of Jennifer Carter and Solomon Chau, a young couple with big plans to get married. But when Sol is diagnosed with cancer, their friends launch an online fundraiser to help the couple have their dream wedding in the race against time.
It starts with an instant connection: The awkward-yet-humble Solomon approaches the pretty and confident Jennifer in a bar. Of course, they can’t help but stare into each other’s eyes as their friends aimlessly chat in the background.
On their first date, the two lovebirds run together to a food truck where they then explore the magic world of local soap vendors in a park. (Because what else is there to do for two millennials in love?) And as if their dates weren’t cheesy enough, Sol proposes to Jen in a musical number that features their friends, an Oasis song, balloons and boats for some reason.
As cloying as their falling-in-love story may be, it is their staying-in-love story that stands out from other dramas. In a virtual roundtable interview, The Chronicle had the opportunity to speak with Rothe and Shum about their experience portraying this story of heartbreak and hope.
“Universally, I think everyone wants to feel loved,” Shum said. “That’s just what we need as humans. When I read the script, I thought it was really beautiful how much love these two wanted to give — not just to each other, but to the people surrounding them. As much as they wanted to receive love, they gave the same amount or even more to each other and the people around them, which was also felt by the strangers selflessly donating to help them have this magical wedding.”
Even if you’re as cynical as I am about romance and relationships and marriage, their wedding was quite magical. It was expansive yet intimate; simple yet elegant; as classy as violins conducting the first dance and as playful as jumping in a fountain in your wedding dress.
“Even though we all yearn for the weddings and the big, flashy, fun events, it is those little moments that make us who we are,” Rothe said. “Like waking up and snuggling with your loved one, or taking your dog on a walk, or a hug, and you don’t realize how special they are until you don’t have them anymore.”
While the movie is based on a real couple, the actors were more focused on connecting with each other than they were replicating the mannerisms of the actual couple — they wanted to honor them through their love for each other. To capture this connection, the real-life Jen shared her story, photos and videos with the actors.
“Watching videos reminded us not to focus on the cancer of it all,” Rothe said. “Even though that was a huge part of Sol’s journey and Jen’s journey, they didn’t let that define them. This movie is about not letting an illness define you. Our lives are made up of so many tiny amazing brilliant moments and living fully in all of them, and I think that was something Harry and I really strived to do.”
This film demonstrated the importance of doing just that: accepting all of these moments, good and bad. To accept vulnerability as a part of strength, anger as a part of fear and fear as a part of love. That love is not all riverside musical proposals and violin-accompanied dances. It is being flexible and understanding in sickness and in health. For better or for worse.
“We are gifted with these emotions that can go all over the place,” Shum said, “But [we need to] really tap into and honor every single one of those, even the ones that we don’t want. To know that there’s a reason to feel that way and to have a conversation [about] it, that will allow us to really appreciate it.”
Get The Dirt
Subscribe to our weekly email about what's trending at Duke
There is no doubt that Jen and Sol love each other, but they are not exempt from the trials of all relationships. They still fight and worry and scream out of the fear of the unknown. But their undeniable love allows them to have difficult conversations and make the unknown a less lonely place.
“We are so much stronger when we band together,” Rothe said. “Especially in this year of so much difficulty and heartache and isolation for so many people, I think the film is very timely. It’s a very powerful story about the power of love and connection, and I hope people can find solace in that and have compassion for themselves and other people.”
“All My Life” is now in theaters and available on demand.