Review by James Lindorf
Jon Abrahams stars as James, a once up-and-coming artist in New York City who has his life forever altered when the events of 9/11 claim the lives of his two best friends and he accepts guardianship of their two young girls. Now, eleven years later, James has lost his job as an elementary art teacher due to budget cuts and he is forced to uproot the girls and move back home to Buffalo. With new surroundings and challenges threatening to tear the three apart, they will have to lean on family and new friends if they want to find their place and figure out how they work best together. All At Once is the directorial debut for its star Jon Abrahams and also features Nicole Elizabeth Berger (The Longest Week), and Sasha Frolova (Red Sparrow) as Grace and Alexis, as wells as Mickey Sumner (Frances Ha), Annie Potts (Ghostbusters) and Stephen Henderson (Lady Bird, Fences), All At Once will be available digitally and On Demand April 3rd.
This was a strong debut for Abrahams. He obviously called in some favors to get people like Scott Caan and Jason Biggs to drop by the set for a day, but it didn’t need the gimmicks. The script by Michael Testone was full of interesting, fully realized characters, but his plot was a tad predictable. You see all of the characters suffering at different times, for different reasons, and I wanted to hug or yell at them to address their issues with each other and their lives. James doesn’t paint anymore and you know it means he is keeping the bulk of his emotions locked away. You root for him to pick up the brush and work through it. Grace has given up on music, the thing she loves most in the world. Alexis is struggling with leaving behind her friends, boyfriend and her connection to her parents. Not everything can be overcome, but maybe they can ease each other’s troubles.
Even though I was able to call out some of the major plot points well before they happened, I didn’t care, because I loved these people and wanted to see if they got the happy ending I desired for them. One of the more interesting things about this film is the obsession with Sylvester Stallone: people dress like him, speak like him, quote his movies and name restaurants after him. I don’t know why it’s a thing, but it is a fun little quirk, as a fellow Sly fan. I don’t know where they filmed the movie. It may have been Buffalo, but I know they didn’t have the budget to actually go to Niagara Falls, which is featured in a scene. It is an obvious green screen effect. I enjoyed the work by the composer, Alberto Bof, and his use of classical piano music throughout and the big number during the credits.
This film wants you to reflect on what you would do if you were in James’ shoes. Would you take on the responsibility or wish the girls the best? Then you start to think about how this situation is possibly happening in real life right now, after 9/11 and a number of other tragedies, and it really adds to the emotional impact of the film. Abrahams and Testone didn’t break new ground here, but it was a road I was happy to travel down.
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