The Multi-faceted Love Story in 'Always Be My Maybe'

BY SARAH JOHN

Following the tragic rom-com drought of the late 2010’s, Netflix seems to have spent the last year on a move to quench our thirst, supplying us with an abundance of cute and diverse love stories (I’m looking at you, Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky.) They’ve given us films like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, The Incredible Jessica James, and Set It Up. Now, in Always Be My Maybe, Netflix has once again created a charming, intimate love story that manages to expand the inclusivity of  the rom-com genre.

PHOTO: Ali Wong /  Instagram

PHOTO: Ali Wong / Instagram

Always Be My Maybe (directed by Nahnatchka Khan) tells an equally hilarious and touching story of two childhood friends, who have long grown apart. From the moment the intro appears — set to an upbeat ‘90s hip hop playlist that I now want as the soundtrack to my own life— this movie lets you know it is going to be very, very adorable. The film starts with the story of young Sasha Tran, a latchkey child with unavailable parents, who spends most of her time with neighbor and friend Marcus Kim and his sweet, affectionate family. Together, the two embark on an enviably fun ‘90s childhood, complete with matching Wayne’s World Halloween costumes and days spent together in photo booths at the county fair. In short, Marcus and Sasha are the exact sort of best-friend, next-door-neighbor duo we all longed to be a part of growing up.

However, this fairy-tale friendship comes to an end after an awkward encounter before college, leaving the two to go their separate ways —  Sasha Tran (Ali Wong) onto global chef super fame with all its red carpets and empty relationships, and Marcus Kim (Randall Park) onto living at home because of his fear of moving on. Fast forward a few years, and the two unexpectedly meet again in their hometown of San Francisco, kicking off the hilarious antics of the film.

Irresistibly funny, the movie benefits greatly from the comedic talent of its two leads. They mesh seamlessly, exchanging cheeky one-liners with an ease reflective of their pro-status. This movie deserves credit for a lot of things, but fans will long owe a debt to Always Be My Maybe for its many memorable scenes — like when Sasha pulls up her dress to show a surprised restaurant her spanx, or when a live music performance ends with a drunk band member peeing on the music equipment. These scenes are comedy gems, along with literally any of the scenes that Keanu Reeves appears in — all of which involve a type of perfectly-executed hyperbole that will probably be memed and gif-ed for as long as we live.

But, underneath the tale of the two leads lies a second love story — the one written by the filmmakers to their heritage and their city. The many moments of celebration for Asian-American heritage, both subtle and genuine, remind us of how our traditions play into forming the particular shape, color, and texture of our childhoods. Anyone can appreciate the love the filmmakers have for their cultural identity. It is, arguably, the most obvious love in the film, at times shining even brighter than the chemistry between Park and Wong.

In a lot of ways, this seems to be Netflix’s specialty. Netflix has long made itself a beacon for diversity, from the boldness of shows like Orange Is the New Black, which told stories that network television was not quite ready to tell, to their recent “Make Room” campaign championing the cause of creating more minority directors in Hollywood. It seems that through films like Always Be My Maybe, they’ve managed to master a new frontier: breaking through barriers in the romantic comedy genre, to tell the inclusive  love stories that viewers in 2019 want to see.

In the end, Always Be My Maybe is undeniably sweet, with touching moments found not only between the two leads, but also within the stories of reconciliation, peace, and growth that their respective families and supporting cast discover. The movie’s theme is seen best in one very vulnerable  moment, where Sasha turns to Marcus and thanks him for reminding her of what home feels like. This was one of the continuing threads between the characters throughout the film, but these words could just as easily come from the audience to the makers of the film itself.  Many people will find themselves saying thank you after this film, because Always Be My Maybe is, at its heart, an altogether wonderful reminder of what home feels like.

Lead Image Credit: Netflix / Giphy