Perhaps this is something I’ve only begun doing or noticing recently, but it’s not uncommon for me to think of one of Wong Fu Productions’ many videos when I consider relationships, whether it’s in the context of a conversation or just considering the details of one of my short stories.
Wong Fu is consistently more precise in portraying emotions onscreen than most other mainstream media sources. The average TV show or movie constructs its plot largely on wider emotional arcs, relying more heavily on stereotypes and exaggerated interactions to move the story forward. For Wong Fu, however, it’s the subtle details that matter. As time has passed, they’ve even come to focus on increasingly finer elements in each of their videos.
Their latest, and biggest project to date, Single by 30, reveals this progression perfectly. Wong Fu partnered with YouTube Red to film and release a mini-series made up of eight, 25-minute episodes. Last June, they’d released a stand-alone pilot episode of the same title. Now, they were taking advantage of this larger platform (and audience) to further develop the storyline they’d originally established.
The premise: When they were seniors in high school, best friends Peter Ma and Joanna Taylor made a pact with each other. If they were both still single by the time they were 30, they would marry each other.
Fast-forward 12 years — during which Peter and Joanna fell completely out of touch with each other — and press play when the two find themselves in Los Angeles, Peter single at 30 and Joanna five months shy of arriving at the same situation herself.
On the night they reconnect (for the first time in over a decade), they both bring up their old pact, tentatively, uncertain if the other still remembers. Of course, they both do, and so just as quickly as they fall into each others lives again, so the pact becomes a very significant part of their interactions.
Over the course of the next eight episodes — for lack of better words — drama ensues.
This drama, however, doesn’t just stem from the tumultuous new platonic, but potentially romantic, relationship between Peter and Joanna. (Their drama is actually relatively low-key for the first few episodes; Wong Fu let this build organically.)
Single By 30 explores the relationships between siblings who are suddenly realizing that they’re both adult, parents who are anxious to find the best for their grown children, old friends falling back in stride with each other, new friends who realize that their disparate personalities don’t make them clash as much as they once thought, and complete strangers meeting through dating apps and realizing that they do quite like each other.
Each character has their own distinct story arc that’s colored by subtle, but strong emotions. Whether you’ve gone through the same, or even a similar, situation yourself, you can always at least sympathize with the characters because their experiences are portrayed in such a raw, genuine light.
Human beings are such incredibly complex, convoluted creatures. Emotions, regardless of how hard we try to find their origin or explain their existence, are often inexplicable.
In this series, Wong Fu has managed to render some of the most contradictory emotions of basic human interactions — love, of all types — plainer.
There are definitely some aspects of romantic love in the 21st century that escape reason and easily fall prey to mockery (i.e. ghosting/dot-dot-dotting or the dating app scene in general). This series acnowledges all of this, teases itself for following the trend, but still finds the honesty behind it all.
Every time Wong Fu releases a new thing in general, I’m always further inspired to write something that can fall on the same level and caliber as their work. Single By 30 has only made this goal harder to reach, but considering how dedicated I was to watching this series (every Wednesday for the past eight weeks, on my lunch break, like clockwork), I’m not too concerned.
This is a pretty high bar they’ve set. And I’m so glad it’s there.