From the moment that I first saw the trailer for Everything Everywhere All at Once, the new sci-fi dark comedy starring Michelle Yeoh, I knew I would not escape the theater without shedding a tear. Between the chill-inducing cinematography, endearing characters, colorful imagery, poignant dialogue, and David Bowie’s vocalizations in the background, the trailer only left me craving more. A few days later I journeyed to the AMC Lincoln Square 13 in New York City, one of the few select locations where the movie is being shown before it’s released everywhere, to attend the sold-out Saturday night screening. My prediction was not only met but far exceeded; by the time the credits rolled not a single dry eye was left in the audience. Maybe it was the powerful collective viewing experience that caused the movie to leave such a lasting impression on me, but I believe there are several things that anyone could love about Everything Everywhere All at Once, even if it is watched, say, on an iPad in the comfort of a dorm room.
As the title indicates, there are many things to be said about Everything Everywhere. The plot follows Evelyn Wang, a stretched-thin Chinese laundromat owner, after she is visited by her husband from an alternate universe and told that she is destined to save the multiverse. Everything Everywhere captures the spirit of every absurd alternate universe idea imaginable while remaining technically sophisticated and aesthetically awesome. One of the ways it accomplishes this is through masterful makeup, set, and costume designs. Each goofy universe featured in the movie, even the one where people have hotdogs for fingers, is brought to life vividly and beautifully. Perhaps the key lies in the way that every colorful detail takes itself incredibly seriously, as if this is the reality that the movie has dreamt up and the audience just has to deal with it. One of my favorite personifications of this effect is the villain, a being who is able to effortlessly hop between her different multiverse versions and takes it upon herself to always choose the most extravagantly dressed ones. Somehow, the villain’s numerous editorial looks, one of which features an Elvis costume and a pig on a leash, only make her seem more formidably larger-than-life.
Refreshingly, there are also some great instances of genuine representation in this movie. The relationships between Evelyn and her husband and daughter illuminate the infinite complexities of familial love in a heart-wrenching, silently-bawling-in-the-theater type of way. Love is not portrayed in an overly romanticized or glamorous manner but instead, as something that is both painfully real and never too late to become better at. Furthermore, the various universes that Evelyn travels to portray facets of Chinese culture, from Kung Fu movies to C-dramas, in a way that is hilariously tongue-in-cheek but still feels like it’s coming from a place of deep appreciation. Not to mention the fact that the main hero of this epic journey is a middle-aged mother and Chinese immigrant, a character that is often overlooked in both Hollywood and society. Everything Everywhere managed to accomplish authentic storytelling, complex character relationships, and a three-part plot structure in just over two hours, a feat that I did not think was possible.
As if that isn’t enough, the movie also offers an answer to the age-old philosophical problem of nihilism. While I’ve learned about absurdism as a solution to nihilism in passing and predicted that the movie was headed in that direction with its message, seeing this concept play out through rich storytelling allowed me to fully understand its meaning. I think this could be an especially useful message for our generation, which, evident by the large daily volume of tweets complaining that “nothing matters” and that “we’re living on a tiny floating rock in space”, succumbs to nihilism more and more every day. The popularity of “good for her” content, such as Midsommar and Gone Girl, which features women overcoming adversity through extreme acts of violence or rage, could also be attributed to an increasingly more nihilistic view of feminism—a response to the seemingly indestructible patriarchy. Everything Everywhere changed the way I view the world, teaching me that sure, maybe in the grand scheme nothing matters, but that’s all the more reason to appreciate the little things, pursue happiness and love, and embrace our infinite potential—give meaning to our lives in spite of the universe. The fact that nothing matters could be a positive tool instead of a cause for despair. After all, if nothing matters then we have the power to determine what matters for ourselves, to choose to focus our energy on the things that fulfill us most. Maybe this is something that most have heard before, but I think Everything Everywhere helps give us the courage to truly believe it.
Weeks after watching this movie, I still notice its idiosyncrasies subtly worming their way into my daily life. For instance, I’ve found myself seeking out more “statistically improbable” actions and imagining the wacky timeline I could be spinning off to as a result. The friend whom I watched it with recently started sticking googly eyes on objects around their apartment as a way of showing love, just as Evelyn’s husband does. Clearly, Everything Everywhere is a movie that quite literally inspires joy and positivity, a refreshing perspective in light of the past few years.
Finally, if you’re looking for one last reason to go see Everything Everywhere All at Once, Mitski is featured in an original song written for the movie’s soundtrack. So, if you don’t watch it for any of the reasons above, at least do it for Mitski.