In All Together Now, Auli’i Cravalho, no longer tied only to Disney’s Moana, delivers a commanding live-action performance. So while fans may have first heard Cravalho singing in the animated hit Moana, All Together Now makes it clear that we’re witnessing the emergence of a major new talent.
As the centerpiece of every scene in the adaptation of Matthew Quick’s novel Sorta Like a Rock Star, Cravalho does it all, revealing a wonderful depth of range. And that makes it a bit difficult to pick exactly which scene in the film is the best, especially since she shares the screen with a great cast including Saturday Night Live alum Fred Armisen and the legendary Carol Burnett.
But when it comes down to it, Netflix’s All Together Now is about family, and — spoiler alert! — no scene reveals that beating heart as much as the moving moment where Cravalho’s character, Amber, sings the song her late father left behind for her.
This All Together Now scene explores the meaning of family for Auli'i Cravalho's character
Right from Auli’i Cravalho’s first scenes of All Together Now, it’s clear not just what an amazing person Amber is —teaching English as a second language to immigrants at a local church and volunteering at a nursing home — but also how close her bond is with her mother, Becky, played expertly by Justina Machado.
That bond is illustrated wonderfully in a moving sequence where we learn the two are homeless and living out of the school bus Becky drives for work. Even more, though, we see Amber’s one remaining tie to her father, who tragically passed when Amber was still a child: a single song that he wrote for her.
So when Amber and her mother have a major argument, it’s no wonder that Amber turns to her father’s song for comfort, for guidance, and for that connection to the family she once had and so longs to have once more.
Auli'i Cravalho's singing in All Together Now takes us to another place
The fact that Auli’i Cravalho is a tremendous singer is something obvious to anyone who has watched Moana. Her clear, empathetic vocals are the soul of that film, and her voice helped launch her to instant stardom. On the strength of that performance, Cravalho ended up landing one of the lead roles in the ABC cult hit Rise, where she also got to wow viewers with her tremendous vocal range.
But while Cravalho is maybe best known for the strength of her voice, belting out uplifting anthems of empowerment, she reveals a tender sadness through her show-stopping rendition of the song “Feels Like Home” in All Together Now.
Accompanied on the piano by her close friend Ty, played by Rhenzy Feliz, Amber lets down her guard and bares her heart. It’s the linchpin for the film’s entire emotional journey, so one wrong choice could have sunk not just the song, but the whole story. Instead, Cravalho delivers an emotionally devastating moment of grace that elevates both her, and everything around her.
This All Together Now song was perfectly written for Auli'i Cravalho
One thing that helped Auli’i Cravalho deliver such an amazing performance in this scene is, of course, the song itself. Written by All Together Now‘s music director Keegan Dewitt, as noted by Refinery29, the lyrics to “Feels Like Home” are moving but also open to interpretation — multiple interpretations. On the surface level, it seems like a romantic love song, but the lyrics of the first verse make it clear that it’s a love song of a different kind: a message of unconditional love from a father to his daughter:
“I saw the truth / when I first laid eyes on you. / I didn’t know it, but my life had changed in ways I couldn’t rearrange. / And all I saw was you.”
Amber is singing this song for her father, but she is also singing it for her mother, to remind herself of what she has. When she sings the chorus, which says, “Take me, I’m ready / go slow, but go steady / to a place that we can call our own / I want to know what feels like home / to you,” she’s singing about the bus in which she and her mother live, and the fact that for them, home isn’t a place — it’s wherever they are, together as a family.
Auli'i Cravalho plays off her co-star so well in this All Together Now scene
But one thing that makes this scene, and Auli’i Cravalho’s performance, in All Together now so special is how many layers there are to it. Because Amber isn’t just singing about the family she has, she’s also singing about the family she is creating with her friends and the family she dreams of having some day. In other words, she’s singing — quite literally — to her crush, Ty.
And the scene is expertly constructed by the filmmakers to amplify and mirror every word. The performance comes when the two of them go on a solo retreat to his family’s vacation home. So as the lyrics say, he literally has taken her to a place they can call their own, a place that feels like home to him — because it is his home.
All of that longing has gone unspoken until this moment in the movie, and Ty does exactly what he should here: He plays the piano, accompanying her and supporting her, but letting her sing and say her piece without interruption or comment. After it’s over, he defuses the weight of the moment with a joke to relieve her worries. The chemistry between Cravalho and co-star Rhenzy Feliz is perfect.
This All Together Now scene with Auli'i Cravalho reveals the heart of the film
Ultimately, a large part of the power of this All Together Now scene comes from the fact that it’s the moment when Amber lets her guard down. Thanks to the great work by Auli’i Cravalho in this scene, we see that underneath Amber’s seemingly perfect, bubbly exterior, there’s a lot of hurt, pain, and longing. It’s when we — and Ty — get to see the whole person.
And that’s so fitting because this performance is also a spectacular debut for Cravalho herself. She’s no longer hidden behind animation like in Moana, or obscured by an ensemble like on Rise. Here in this scene, and in this film, it’s all Cravalho front and center, showing the world who she is and what she’s capable of. There’s a lot you need to know about Auli’i Cravalho, and it turns out that, as we suspected all along, she is a superstar. And she’s capable of, well, pretty much anything.
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