All Together Now

Aug 28, 2020

A fine Netflix addition to a teen  genre.

All Together Now

Grade: B+

Director: Brett Haley (The Hero)

Screenplay: Haley, Marc Basch (Hearts Beat Loud), from the novel “Sorta like a Rock Star” of and adapted by Matthew Quick

Cast: Auli’I Cravalho (Moana), Justina Machado (The Purge: Anarchy)

Runtime: 1h 32m

Rating: PG

By: John DeSando

When I can be moved to tears in front of my cruel computer, you know All Together Now can be one of the best teen coming-of-age films on Netflix, a purveyor of that genre like no other service.

Having had five daughters, I am an expert about the challenges teen girls face in any world at any time. Most of those rough times are caused by us, adults, who need to see movies like this to understand the beautifully complex decisions and affections a teen is called on to endure. In fact, every pre-teen should see this melodrama as well to gain insight into the difficult world of their future.

Amber (Auli’I Cravalho) lives illicitly in a school bus with her driver, alcoholic mother until they can’t. Amber is so charming during the day that no one would guess the difficulties she faces once away from school. Think of her working in a donut shop in Portland, producing fundraising shows for her school, and trying to figure out how she can get to Carnegie Mellon University Drama School, which has invited her to audition.

Then throw into the mix her mom’s abusive boyfriend and a mini-pup with a cancerous mass that should be operated on, and you have probably too many bad things happening to her for one movie. Still, if you accept where filmmaker Brett Haley wants you to go, each is a barrier to happiness, and she is an inveterate optimist.

All Together Now gets right the motifs of hope and community caring seasoned with music because Amber needs to allow the community to give back to her after all she has given them, music not the least. The film signifies better than most that allowing others to give is a gift to them and a sure sign that something is right about you.

Life can be survived with happiness, only after one has earned it, is a powerful message in pandemic times when that tyrant seems to make us all helpless. But not youth with hope.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at