Everything Everywhere all at Once


Han-ah Kang

When I had walked into my local movie theater, I had anticipated a coming of age movie on the Asian immigrant experience with some sci-fi elements. Everything Everywhere All at Once, directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, had made quite the commotion for its depiction of a struggling immigrant family. As the child of Asian American immigrants, I had simply expected a handful of tear jerking scenes, but the movie was beyond what I had expected. It was absolutely bizarre.

Spoilers Ahead

The plot centers on a Chinese American family, who find themselves dissatisfied with the everyday cycles of taxes, work, and clashes of cultural values. Evelyn, our protagonist, is a mother, wife and owns a laundromat. Evelyn cannot help but long for what could’ve been, as her current life consists of cold treatment from her father, visits to the IRS to pay off taxes, and her fights with her daughter Joy. Soon, her desires pull her into different universes where she fulfills different lifestyles. Evelyn’s possibilities are endless: acting, cooking, singing and even worlds where she has hot dogs for fingers. Throughout the film, Evelyn’s journey consists of humorous scenes containing sexual and often nonsensical gags that somehow tie into the plot. Scenes of a grandpa running over someone with a wheelchair, fighting scenes with the landlord, and a swirling bagel that somehow causes all these multidimensional conflicts provide laughter throughout the entirety of the movie. As she explores this expansive world, she begins to realize her daughter is a threat to the entire system of multiverses. Evelyn begins to question her role, as a maternal figure to Joy.

Though it is hard to summarize Everything Everywhere All At Once due to the overwhelming plot that may confuse even those who have watched the movie, it will painfully resonate. Scenes where Joy begins to have hope that her mother will understand her emotionally, yet is quickly shut down by Evelyn, linger in my head. Even the mix of Cantonese, Mandarin, and English was reminiscent of my own household, jumping from language to language. With an all asian main cast, the movie’s characters seem so human and complex, a refreshing sight to see due to the underrepresentation of Asian Americans in Hollywood. Towards the end, Joy in frustration, cries to her mother exclaiming, “And for some reason when I’m with you, it just hurts the both of us.” To which Evelyn vulnerably tells her daughter, “And why, no matter what, I still want to be here with you. I will always, always, want to be here with you.” Together the mother and daughter will slowly reconcile, healing their generational trauma that they have been forced to confront with. Their differences, but especially their similarities, have driven Evelyn to project onto Joy, causing feelings of suffocation. Throughout the absurd and comedic aspects, the film is bittersweet and so real, leaving viewers with tears streaming down their face.