Sasha Tran (Ali Wong) and Marcus Kim (Randall Park) were best friends who were inseparable as kids. Since her parents often left her alone, Sasha would hang out with Marcus’s family and learn cooking tips from his mom (Susan Park). As the pair grew into their teen years they shared many experiences, including a romantic and extremely awkward encounter in the back of Marcus’ beat-up Corolla. A moment that ended up ripping them apart rather than bring them closer together.
Sixteen years after the passing of Marcus’s mother, the former friends have grown up and are living vastly different lives. Sasha is now a world-famous Chef, opening her signature trendy restaurants all over America, and is engaged to a handsome restauranteur Brandon (Daniel Dae Kim). While Sasha’s star continues to rise, Marcus life has hit a bit of a rut. Working at his dad’s air condition repair business, Marcus spends his free time with his new age girlfriend of five months (Vivian Bang) and playing in the band he formed in high school.
When Brandon decides to put a pause on their relationship, so he can pursue other business ventures, a heartbroken Sasha moves back to San Francisco to start prepping for her next restaurant launch in New York. Aided by her meddling pregnant assistant Veronica (scene-stealer Michelle Buteau), Sasha unexpectedly reconnects with Marcus, forcing the pair to confront their past feelings and the various paths their lives are currently on.
Keeping close to all the formulaic beats one would expect from a romantic comedy such as this, director Nahnatchka Khan’s feature film debut does not bring anything new to the table from a plot standpoint. One knows exactly how things will play out from one minute to the next.
What separates Always Be My Maybe from other films of this nature, is that it never forces its female lead to sacrifice her career for love. Khan ensures that Sasha’s goals are always at the forefront and never on the condition of a man’s love or approval. Though the economic and social divide are a point of contention for Sasha and Marcus’s relationship, it is nice to see a film were the woman can support the male’s pursuits without giving up on her own.
Sasha’s sense of independence and her ups and downs with love are perfectly conveyed through Wong’s wonderful work in the film. Bringing both humour and heart to the role, Wong proves she is more than ready to headline more films. Her chemistry with Randall Park, who is great as a man unwilling to left go of grief, feels natural and radiates off the screen.
Frankly, the entire ensemble is a treat to watch. It is the performances that elevate the material and provide several laugh out loud moments. One only needs to observe the brilliant cameo by Keanu Reeves, playing a heighten version of himself, for proof of this.
Although the subplot involving Sasha’s parents never lands the way Khan wants it to, there is much to enjoy here. Always Be My Maybe succeeds in bringing fresh humour and charm to familiar tropes.