The APAHM Project Day 21: Everything Before Us
Film: Everything Before Us
Directors: Wesley Chan and Phillip Wang
Where to watch: WongFu is making this film available for free on their YouTube channel in parts, or you can get the full film on their Patreon or on iTunes
Why it made the list:
WongFu has been on YouTube for over 10 years and has provided a voice and creative platform for Asian Americans. “Everything Before Us” is their first and only feature-length film they ever made. The film stars Aaron Yoo (“Disturbia”) and premiered at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival in 2015.
EBU follows couples Ben and Sara and Seth and Haley and their registered relationships. In the film, the Department of Emotional Integrity (DEI) evaluates people’s relationships and give a score that works similar to a credit score. It can make or break careers, education, and more. Ben and Sara used to be in a relationship, but they must re-evaluate their relationship for Ben to be able to get a job. The two rekindle their friendship and it eventually becomes romantic again. Meanwhile, Seth and Haley are a young couple who are so in love, they decide to register at the DEI. However, with college life and distance getting in the way, the two file for termination.
Most of WongFu’s shorts I enjoy. They have created some pretty good series as well, such as “Dating After College” and “Just Another Nice Guy.” But sometimes they push their advocacy a little too much and it comes off more like a soap box (“Yappie”). Other shorts feel a little too emotional to the point where it doesn’t feel natural. And that’s how EBU feels. It feels like one long emotional WongFu short that is trying too hard to feel emotional (kind of like some episodes of “This Is Us” or some Pixar movies). It’s like they think if they get us to cry, we will say we felt something and it was therefore a great film, but this isn’t the case. I think that if a film really resonates with you and allows you to feel empathy as you go on the journey with the character, you can easily get caught up in the emotion and shed a tear or two.
EBU does have some good points to it. Such as in both relationships, it is shown that love can transcend their DEI scores. Sara agrees to re-evaluate her high score to help Ben; Seth takes full responsibility for his breakup so Haley can study abroad. Ben delivers a compelling monologue as to why the scores don’t matter. The acting from the main cast is pretty good, but the supporting is not as strong. If you have seen WongFu’s shorts, many of the actors look familiar. The biggest names in this film are probably Randall Park and Yoo.
Does it deserve to stay on this list?
Even Phillip Wang agrees this film isn’t the strongest. And he makes a valid point that your first film is seldom a hit. However, WongFu has done so much for the Asian American community over the years. They don’t have a big fancy studio or Hollywood-sized budgets. They help their aspiring actor friends have material for reels and continue to perpetuate the idea of creative Asians. We can appreciate EBU as a true testament of their fans’ appreciation and support, since the film was funded through a crowd fund site and thousands of people donated. I wish that WongFu will be able to make another feature film in the future, as I think their content has come a long way even in just recent years. But for now, I continue to look forward to their new shorts, series, and additional videos like Lunch Break. If you are looking into watching some of their videos, I recommend ”Dating After College,” “Just Another Nice Guy,” “Asian Bachelorette,” “In Between,” and one of my favorites, “The Last.”