Tribeca Festival: ‘All That We Love’ is an Upbeat Look at Moving On

Tribeca Festival: ‘All That We Love’ is an Upbeat Look at Moving On
Tribeca Festival

The death of a pet is a monumental event that can be extremely shattering but isn’t perceived and respected by society in the same way as the loss of a family member. How deep and personal it feels depends entirely on the person and the relationship they had with that pet, and grief can open up old wounds that have nothing to do with this particular death. Yen Tan’s All That We Love is a humor-laced look at what it means to be stuck and how we all sometimes just need time to figure out where we are at an unexpected and difficult turning point.

Margaret Cho stars as Emma, who is actively mourning her recently deceased dog. She’s also not happy about the fact that her daughter Maggie (Alice Lee) is preparing to relocate to Australia with her partner, not because she doesn’t like him but because of the extreme distance that will put between them. Her best friend Stan (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) is mostly supportive but wants to see her get her life together more than anything, something made more complicated by the sudden return of Emma’s ex-husband Andy (Kenneth Choi), who purports himself to be a changed man ready to atone and reconnect just when Emma is most vulnerable.

Tan’s previous credits include the Kevin Yee-starring pilot A Guide to Not Dying Completely Alone, which screened at SXSW last year, and the film 1985, a look at a gay man going home to his family shot in black-and-white. For this endeavor, Tan chooses a phenomenal collaborator in Cho, who is very funny but hones in on an understated misery to ground this performance. At times self-deprecating and at others refreshingly honest, it’s a fun turn that serves to anchor a film that’s part comedy and part drama, eager to find humor in lighter moments but just as ready to engage with more serious material as it arises.

Cho’s performance is not the only one worthy of praise, and she’s surrounded by three very talented actors all contributing something very different to this experience. Lee, who played the title character’s sister-in-law on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, ensures that Maggie isn’t just a subplot but instead someone who has her own feelings and concerns about how her mother is spending her life – and plenty to say about the father she remembers abandoning her as a child. Choi, an alumnus of Sons of Anarchy, brings a sobering authenticity to Andy, someone who knows he has done wrong but also isn’t willing to blame himself entirely for everything that happened or remain stuck in a past he’s left behind. Emmy nominee and Tony winner Ferguson, best known for Modern Family, keeps the saltiness of his typically comedic characters but turns it into something far more biting in this more dramatic role.

All That We Love begins with the death of a pet but travels many other places after that, exploring Emma’s relationships with the people around her and the way in which tethering herself to a pet rather than a person has allowed her to shield herself from the harm and judgment she believes she will face. It’s a journey made entertaining and accessible thanks to the witty script from Tan and Clay Liford and the talented team of actors in front of the camera who blend laughter with introspection in this drama masquerading as a comedy. This film successfully posits that it’s possible to find humor in seemingly solemn and isolating spaces, extracting a delicate and winning story in the process that’s great fun to watch.

Grade: B+

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All That We Love makes its world premiere in the Spotlight Narrative section at the 2024 Tribeca Festival.

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