Wong Fu Productions were basically YouTubers before YouTube even existed. Especially for those who have followed Wes, Ted and Phil since the Wong Fu inception during the early 2000s. The boys are known for the music videos and short films they have released on their website and eventual YouTube Channel, which currently sits at over 2.5 million subscribers and over 384 million video views. So when they announced they wanted to crowdfund the money to produce a full-length feature film it’s no surprise that the original goal was far exceeded and Everything Before Us was finally released this year.
And the film is everything you’d expect from Wong Fu- beautiful, touching, funny, slightly quirky and whole lots of wonderful. As Phil himself explained the film is just a longer Wong Fu short, a “Wong Fu long”.
The film itself is set in a near future, where we are all issued a “relationship score” that determines our eligibility career-wise and relationship-wise. Your scores are affected by the choices you make and how you behave in your romantic attachments, whether you follow proper protocol for each. They are monitored and determined by the Department of Emotional Integrity (D.E.I) and you must visit this RTA-style branch in order to lodge relationship notices, terminations or request reviews.
The film follows two relationships- Ben (Aaron Yoo) and Sara (Brittany Ishibashi) who are forced to revisit their past, and Seth (Brandon Soo Hoo) and Haley (Victoria Park) who are just starting to understand the trials of first love. Each character is entirely relatable, and the decisions and mistakes they make and the consequences they have in this new society keep you entirely absorbed. Especially when they visit their lovably frustrated DEI rep Randall (Randall Park). There are cheesy moments to be enjoyed, but the film definitely verges on the more serious side when it begins to discuss values.
For the film offers a fascinating insight into the next level of public “social ratings” for want of a better term. As Phil and Wes explained at the post-film Q&A the idea for the film arose from a curiosity as to how people would treat each other differently if they knew all of their past experiences. How would that in turn segregate everyone? In this world that is already so much involved in social popularity of liking and following, how would we take that one step further.
It’s completely engaging. At several points during the film we see a social segregation- no longer based on sexuality, gender or race, but on this score. People talk of others as a “Plus 80” being a quality person or a “Sub 40” hardly worth being bothered by, the cogitations of each clearly visible down to even separate bars each is able to frequent. Blind dates are turned down by “it’s not you it’s your score” and the DEI offers the valuable advice in their tagline of “if you want to know more then check their score”.
The new society is verging on de-humanizing experiences. Proclamations of “but I love her” are met with “well read this brochure”, and relationships that end must be properly handled with a termination report and relevant paperwork. The message that the film seeks to deliver (which is does beautifully) is the limits of such statistics in their ability to determine the value of a relationship or indeed life. Ben is the champion of this, declaring that we must be allowed to take risks. Particularly in love, that tests us and breaks us down and hurts like hell. That it is that which determines the measure of a person and their love.
Like I said, beautiful. Just like the mural that Ben paints.
Review score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Watch Everything Before Us here