Being a family does not guarantee a close relationship, and holidays and celebrations don’t always mean there will be reconciliation and joy; in fact, depending on how dysfunctional the family is, a gathering can bring about just the opposite. But pain is a necessary part of the growing process, and though the healing might not be immediate, it can come about as a result.
Such is the case in All That I Am, a film by Carlos Puga. In the film, three siblings, all of whom are dealing with their own issues and have a strained relationship with their father, are getting together once again in honor of their late mother’s birthday. It was a promise that they made to her on her deathbed: every year in her honor, each sibling would buy a gift for another and come together for a weekend celebration.
Christian is a down-on-his-luck writer and borderline drug addict, who handles his stressful days and bouts of writers block with strong drinks, parties, and one night stands. He’s a loner who doesn’t really enjoy being alone, and he gets the surprise of a lifetime when his father and his ex-girlfriend show up at his door right before he departs for the long weekend ahead. The two of them join Christian for the ride, and tension continues to build up until the very end of the film.
In addition to his new stowaways and lack of a career, Christian soon discovers that his brother, Wynn, recently came into success as a writer, but Wynn’s humility annoys Christian even more than does his success. Christopher Abbott gives a great performance as Christian, a guy who has had a rough life that appears to be even worse by a lack of communication with his family, and yet he still doesn’t come across as a very likeable person. Bad things happen to him, but his selfishness and inability to listen to reason amplify just how bad his life really is in his own mind. He projects his problems onto everyone else, blaming his dysfunctional family for his suffering, but he doesn’t seem to realize how many of his issues are his own fault.
Christian is determined to stay distant and aloof, but with nowhere to go and all the members of his family together for three days, tensions come to a head. Secrets are revealed and deep, dark, true feelings are exposed. Scenarios begin to work out and worsen at the same time. Everyone becomes uncomfortable to an extent. Jealousy turns into anger, but in the process, there is healing.
The film is armed with a playful soundtrack that lightens the overall mood. It really contains only one song that plays at appropriate times, and this unconventional method works very well in making the film more complete.
In All That I Am, not everything works out. Traditions shift and relationships fall through. But it oddly works and goes along with the theme of the entire film. Life is an unpredictable thing that no one will ever fully figure out, and though sometimes things don’t work out, more often than not, when problems are exposed, solutions appear.