All That We Love

Tribeca 2024: All That We Love Offers a Familiar Portrait of Grief and Awkward Family Dynamics

There are few things in life as devastating as the loss of a pet. Pets are members of our family, our companions, and unlike people, pets (dogs especially) always offer their love unconditionally. A loss like this can leave a person reeling, and no matter what our societal norms around them are, they are difficult to get over. All That We Love begins with such a loss. Emma (Margaret Cho) holds and comforts her dog Tanner as he passes. It’s a solemn note to begin on, but it sets up Emma for the chaotic path she will take over the next few days because, as in real life, the world continues to turn.

Emma is a bigwig at a furniture company and jumps down the throat of her subordinates. Her daughter Maggie (Alice Lee) is going to Australia with her boyfriend to visit his family for months instead of the weeks she initially said, kicking her protective nature into high gear. Her alcoholic but currently sober ex-husband Andy (Kenneth Choi) has just arrived back in town after abandoning his family several years earlier and, last but not least, her best friend Stan (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) is trying to move on with his life after losing his husband three years prior.

Needless to say, there is a lot happening in Emma’s life, and the central performance in a film like this is key. Thankfully, Margret Cho is up to the task. Emma is in a tumultuous emotional state, and Cho’s performance reflects this in every scene. There are a few scenes that are perhaps a little on the schmaltzy side, but she does well with the material, and those scenes will connect with anyone who has lost a pet.

She also maintains her comedic chops, offering more than a few of the film’s laughs, usually at the expense of Maggie’s boyfriend. Her best scenes are with Ferguson, though; Stan clearly loves Emma but is getting a bit tired of her bullshit, and that comes to a head the most she spends time with Andy, whom Stan only knows as the asshole who repeatedly hurt his friend. Kenneth Choi is one of those character actors who tends to make things better, or at least more interesting, just by being present in them, and this is no exception. Andy is down on his luck but in recovery, and many scenes require a vulnerability that he plays with a relatable sincerity.

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Alice Lee is similarly good, dealing with a domineering mother, and you can feel and relate to her frustration through most of the movie. She also handles some of the film’s emotional heavy lifting along with Choi once their characters finally reconnect. There’s also an appearance by Atsuko Okatsuka as Andy’s zany sister and her appearance is memorable despite being, through no fault of her own, a little bit of a cliché.

And herein lies the main issue with the film: there’s not a whole lot that we haven’t seen before. While the story isn’t poorly executed nor the film poorly acted, most of the major characters and events in the film are tropes we’re familiar with. Of course, Emma is over-protective; of course, she and Stan have a falling out in the second act that gets resolved in the third; of course, she tries to get a new dog too early, and it goes awry. The thread that is executed best is the reconnection with Andy, and in some ways, it feels like that should have been the central focus of the film.

None of this is to say that All That We Love is bad. It’s not bad, it’s good. It’s just not great. There is plenty for the audience to appreciate and connect with, but there’s little that hasn’t been seen or done before.

All That We Love premiered at the 2024 Tribeca Film Festival.

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