A heartwarming, yet hard lesson

‘All Together Now’ provides a predictable, but inspiring story to its audience

Ashley Pelletier, Associate Arts and Life Editor

Wake up, volunteer at the retirement home, plan the school variety show, go to work, go to sleep — Amber Appleton does it all, but you would never know that she and her mother are homeless.

“All Together Now,” directed by Brett Haley, was released on Netflix on Aug. 28. Haley previously directed films such as “All the Bright Places” and “Hearts Beat Loud.” “All Together Now” combines the subjects of both films, featuring struggles with mental illness and the use of music to bring people together.

Bobby Big Boy’s sickness was one of many hardships Amber faces. (Photo from Netflix)

Auli’i Cravalho, who portrays Appleton, acts in her first feature film since “Moana.” Much like “Moana,” “All Together Now” allows Cravalho to shine both through her acting and singing. The film features an original song, “Feels Like Home,” written by Keegan DeWitt, the film’s composer. In the movie, the song is written by Appleton’s father, who died when she was young.

One thing that I particularly enjoyed about the film is Appleton’s relationship with her mother, Becky. Becky, played by Justina Machado, struggles with alcoholism and a toxic relationship with her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Oliver.

Becky’s relationship with Oliver is a point of tension between her and Appleton, which results in a pivotal fight between the two. This fight is reminiscent of any argument that a child has with a parent who is struggling with addiction, which can be sensitive for some viewers.

One bone I have to pick with this film is just how much the screenwriter and author of the novel it was based on, Matthew Quick, threw at Appleton. Homelessness, a parent struggling with addiction, a sick pet and dropping out of high school is a lot of struggle for one movie. However, once Appleton overcame all of those struggles, I thought that the movie did a good job balancing between hardship and happiness.

Other than Appleton, two stand-out characters in the film are Ty, played by Rhenzy Feliz, and Joan, portrayed by Carol Burnett. Of course, there is also the true star of the film, Appleton’s chihuahua, Bobby Big Boy.

Ty is Appleton’s crush, who helps her with her audition to Carnegie Mellon and raises the money for Bobby Big Boy’s surgery. Joan is a crotchety old woman who tells Appleton that she will eventually “make her cry.” Spoiler alert, she does, but not in the way that you would think.

While the end of the film is clichéd and predictable, it balances well with the lows experienced earlier in the film. After watching Appleton lose all of her belongings, her mother and almost losing Bobby, it was nice to see her get everything that she could have hoped for.

At its core, the main lesson to be learned from “All Together Now” is that asking for help is not a weakness. Both Appleton and her mother struggle with the concept throughout the film, with Appleton finally realizing that asking for help does not have to be a bad thing in the end.

I really enjoyed the film. Even though some parts of the movie are sad or hard to watch, “All Together Now” is ultimately a feel-good movie about the strength of a girl who does everything she possibly can for her community and gets the favor returned.

4/5 Bobby Big Boys

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