Late Toronto teen's life with cancer coming to big screen, starring her real-life best friend

'Kiss and Cry' tells the story of Toronto's Carley Allison, who publicly shared her life with cancer online and whose YouTube videos reach tens of thousands.

'Kiss and Cry' tells the story of Carley Allison, who inspired thousands online

Sarah Fisher, right, plays the role of her real-life best friend, Carley Allison, left. (Sarah Fisher)

Carley Allison was just 17 when she was diagnosed with an extremely rare, one in 3.5 billion, form of sarcoma.

The late Toronto teenager refused to let it define her. Instead the vivacious singer and accomplished athlete used her cancer diagnosis to inspire thousands of young people around the world, by sharing her personal motto: "Always Smile."

Carley died almost two years ago at 19, but her story is once again in the spotlight.

Her journey with cancer, which she documented on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and in a 200-page blog online, has been turned into a full-length feature film, Kiss and Cry.

And it stars her real-life best friend, actress Sarah Fisher.

"Carley wasn't afraid to tell her story," Fisher, 24, says, her eyes shining. "The last thing that girl was afraid, that`s for sure."

Sarah Fisher sits down with reporter Shannon Martin about producing and starring in film Kiss and Cry, which is about her late best friend Carley Allison. 2:19

Fisher pitched the idea of telling Carley's story on the big screen to her friend, critically acclaimed producer and director Sean Cisterna, just months after Carley's death.

The Allison family wholeheartedly agreed to the project, and even opened up their home in North Toronto to the film crew.

The pair met in high school. Sarah says she was in awe of her friend's beautiful singing voice. (Sarah Fisher)

'This is what Carley would've wanted'

Scenes were shot inside the family room, kitchen, and Carley's own bedroom. Her dog, Tobi, also stars in the film.

Some days were definitely harder than others, admits her eldest sister, Riley.

"Every single time it got hard, we just thought this is what Carley would've wanted," said Riley, 23. "Carley would've wanted to be in the movies.

"She loves being in the spotlight, sharing her story and helping others through that."

Riley Allison, left, says the movie about her sister is 'not a Hollywood version of how cancer is supposed to look. It's exactly how cancer looks.' (Riley Allison)

The film begins shortly before Carley is diagnosed. The fiercely competitive figure skater, who dreamed of competing in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, had just moved from Junior to Elite status in the sport.

She also also just met John Servinis, who would become her first love, and long-time boyfriend.

It was on their first date that she collapsed and ended up in hospital.

Kiss and Cry also stars Juno Award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter, Chantal Kreviazuk, right, who plays the role of Carley`s mother. (Mythic Productions)

Carley had a malignant melanoma in her trachea. She underwent chemotherapy and a tracheotomy to help her breathe.

After a brief remission, the cancer spread to her lungs.

'She's still here for me'

Fisher says having to re-live those tough moments during filming was especially challenging.

But she always kept her best friend, and their conversations shared in her hospital room, close to her heart.

"I think it'll be one of the favourite roles I'll get to play in my life," said Fisher.

"It was therapeutic. She's still here for me," she added, placing a hand on her heart.

Toronto-based filmmaker Sean Cisterna talks Sarah Fisher through a scene during filming. (Mythic Productions)

Kiss and Cry will premiere to a sold-out crowd in Toronto Feb. 4, which is World Cancer Day, before opening in Toronto theatres Feb. 10.

A portion of the proceeds from the movie will go towards Carley's Angels — a foundation started by Carley, and now run by her family.

It supports young people, and their families, dealing with rare forms of cancer.

'Kiss and Cry' is opening in Toronto theatres on Feb. 10. (Kiss and Cry)

Carley's eldest sister Riley says while the movie is hard for her and her family to watch, it's also an incredible tribute to Carley and her legacy.

"If the movie can do half as much as Carley did in her lifetime by inspiring people and helping people move forward through adversity, it's done it's job."

Carley Allison, 19, lived by her own motto - 'Always Smile.' (Facebook)

About the Author

Shannon Martin

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Shannon is an award-winning reporter with CBC Toronto. She was part of the core team that launched "No Fixed Address", a hugely popular series on millenials renting and buying in Toronto. In 2016, Shannon hosted a special live broadcast on-air and on Facebook simultaneously from Toronto Pride, which won top honours in the Digital category at the RTDNA awards. Contact Shannon: shannon.martin@cbc.ca or find her on Instagram at @ShannonMartinTV.