On the heels of successful TV shows and films like “Kim’s Convenience” and “Crazy Rich Asians” (2018), Netflix’s latest release “Always Be My Maybe” is the most recent production to bring Asian American (or Asian Canadian) culture to the mainstream. Starring Ali Wong and Randall Park, who also produced and co-wrote the screenplay alongside Michael Golamco (screenplay) and Nathan Kahame (producer), the film is your classic romantic comedy set in the Chinese community in San Francisco, Wong’s real life hometown. It’s a refreshing and well-needed window into an aspect of American culture rarely seen on the big and small screens.
“Always Be My Maybe” tells the story of childhood friends and next door neighbours Sasha (Ali Wong) and Marcus (Randall Park) who become estranged after a fight near the end of high school. The two meet again after 16 years to discover their lives have gone in completely different directions. They also discover they have a lot unfinished business and unresolved feelings.
Although the film is obviously different than other romantic comedies we’ve seen before due to the setting and characters, it’s very similar to “Kim’s Convenience” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” in that the story is universal, allowing viewers of all ethnicities to connect with what they’re seeing onscreen.
If you look underneath the themes of Asian American culture and romance you’ll find messages of success (specifically questions around what really makes one successful) and what’s really important in life. This is a film that may force you to think about your life as viewers may see a lot of themselves in either the characters of Sasha or Marcus.
Aside from the great acting from Wong and Park, who may remind you a lot Ryan Reynolds in the way he executes his comedy and acting, another bright spot is Keanu Reeves who makes a cameo as an exaggerated, douchier and more dramatic version of himself. With “John Wick: Chapter 3” currently in theatres he adds a bit of star power to the film (not that it was necessarily needed). Nevertheless, his acting was superb and he ended up playing the perfect antagonist to Marcus as the two played well off of each other onscreen.
Also of note is the soundtrack which features some classic 90’s hip-hop and R&B including “93 ‘Til Infinity” from Bay Area hip-hop group Souls of Mischief, as well as D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” and Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” from which the film derives its name. The film opens with some classic hip-hop as we’re introduced to the main characters as children and the vibes continue throughout the film as Sasha and Marcus reconnect with their childhood.
“Always Be My Maybe” is entertaining from start to finish and is one of the better romantic comedies we’ve seen in recent years. It wouldn’t be a romantic comedy without a feel good ending, but this one has a bit of an extra sentimental twist that may have you reaching for the nearest tissue box.
Overall, “Always Be My Maybe” is a barrier-breaking piece of work that will hopefully mean more Asian American stories being told on TV and in film. It will also be interesting to see what’s next for Ali Wong and Randall Park as the two showed they have what it takes to write, produce and star in high quality productions that resonate with diverse audiences.