By ALISON CHURCH
For anyone who loves the awkward and often cliche style of a childhood sweetheart story, “Always Be My Maybe”, directed by Nahnatchka Khan, leaves a memorable imprint on the viewers heart. Whether its ten years from now or twenty, the movie timelessly communicates its pure message of never forgetting the emotions one feels during childhood.
The film captures nearly two decades within the first seven minutes, yet paces itself in a natural and enjoyable way. It establishes the lonely life of a young Vietnamese girl named Sasha, who is taught by her best friend’s mother how to cook authentic Korean food for herself when her parents aren’t at home. Starring two asian american leads, Sasha Tram (played by Ali Wong) and Marcus Kim (played by Randall Park) are shown transitioning from energetic elementary schoolers, to timid high school best friends who have an embarrassing one night stand, and then proceed to have a falling out. In the future, Sasha has let the fame of being a celebrity chef shine over her genuine personality, yet has never lost her craving for genuine love. Her attractive yet superficial buffoon of a fiancé decides to have them both “see other people” before their wedding, ultimately leading to Sasha and Marcus’ cliche yet inevitable romantic reunion.
“Always Be My Maybe” successfully captures both the genuine and forced feelings that go unsaid among a variety of different types of romantic relationships; it executes this through an exaggerated performance by Keeanu Reeves who plays Sasha’s rebound boyfriend, a man filled with pent up aggression, arrogance, and superficiality. Both Marcus and Sasha end up with people who care little about the inside of someone’s mind or heart. It comically communicates the importance of not falling for fluff or superficiality, but instead for sincerity.
Many have compared “Always Be My Maybe” to the success of the film, “Crazy Rich Asians” released in 2018. While both films gave newfound representation and a platform to star asian actors and actresses, “Always Be my Maybe” succeeded far greater in creating a more personal story in a cozier, more relatable, and less posh setting. The vast majority of “Crazy Rich Asians” displayed a richer Asian lifestyle, while the majority of “Always Be My Maybe” displayed a wider range of lifestyles, ranging from Marcus’s casual comfort zone in a small San Francisco apartment, to Sasha’s lonely, luxurious condo. Marcus’ distaste for Sasha’s “elevated” Asian cuisine she caters towards “rich white people” subtly and successfully conveys the film’s cultural tug of war between Marcus’ love for traditional Asian comfort food and nostalgia, and Sasha’s split from her origins and culture.
“Always Be my Maybe” manages to make its viewers laugh, cry, empathize, and connect the story to their own lives despite being structured as a traditional romance storyline. It is worth the time to not only discover up and coming Asian American stars in the film industry, but also to experience a heartwarming, wholesome film.