Most films about youngsters have to do with dating and various ways of pursuing it without looking frivolous. Skirting the shallowness of the teen flick, All Together Now brings us a sweet-tempered and compassionate film about the generosity of spirit and how receiving requires as much grace as giving.
The young heroine Amber, played with an unassuming wisdom by Auliʻi Cravalho is kind, compassionate and generous. She spends her time with her pet dog volunteering for various charitable causes, including regular visits to an old folks’ home where she distributes donuts and reads to the elderly.
Now, this cloying scenario would have collapsed in a heap of embarrassing over-sentimentality. It is to director Brett Haley’s credit that he exercises a firm control over the potential mawkish material, never glorifying the hardships that Amber so bravely negotiates. Most of these hardships have to do with Amber’s troubled alcoholic mother (Judy Reyes). Homeless and for all practical purposes, hopeless, the mother and daughter are constantly at loggerheads.
But Amber never gives away her problems. Generous in other ways she is miserly about sharing misery. A lot of the film’s casual heft comes from the way Amber’s friends convince her that a support system is not a resort for the weak and that you don’t lose your dignity by seeking your friend’s help. The fairytale-like climax may be on the incredulous side. But it had me cheering and holding back a tear. Life is not about ideal situations. But hell, with a little bit of help from our friends, no crisis is insurmountable.
While the central performances by Cravalho and Reyes are uplifting in their controlled emotional velocity, a surprise cameo by veteran comedienne Carol Burnett had me choking with emotions. I grew up watching Ms Burnett’s incredible comic timing. Now at 80-plus, she plays a rich heiress who finds a sense of purpose so late in life by giving generously. This is the most feel-good film you will see this season, and one that will have you cheering.