Just look around in any American town or city, and you can see people living on the edge of economic stability. Undoubtedly there is too much of it—but there’s also too much of it being depicted in a phony, unsubtle manner by moviemakers.
The directorial debut of actress Katie Holmes, starring herself as Rita, a drunk single mother living out of her car, is the latest well-intentioned yet lousy-with-clichés treatment in the hard-luck-woman subgenre. Holmes and Stefania Owen, as her tween daughter Ruthie, share a staggeringly physical similarity and acting energy (Owen could easily be edited into a 1998 scene of Dawson’s Creek and you wouldn’t notice the difference), but their domestic tumult scenes together feel like acting class exercises.
Holmes matches better with a supporting cast that includes Richard Kind (as a diner owner who hires Rita), Mr. Robot’s Eve Lindley (as a fellow waitress) and the always-underrated Luke Wilson (as a recovering addict turned all-around good guy). Based on Annie Weatherwax’s 2014 novel, the movie is overloaded with capital-D drama, from Mark Consuelos ludicrous role as a Rita’s bad boyfriend to the typical drug and discipline platitudes that face Ruth in high school.
There is a film out right now that deals with a young person growing up through hard times. It’s called Moonlight. And another one that deals with an unstable parent figure struggling to enter normal society. It’s called Manchester by the Sea. Neither of those films include, as All We Had does, a cloying, condescending scene of its characters excitedly shopping in Walmart, staring with stars in their eyes and dreams of credit card approval at a big-screen TV. C