By Lori Perkins
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a lot to handle – it’s a paranormal multiverse alternate universe Asian American family saga with a 50-something female lead. Of course, that sounds overwhelming and it is.
After I saw it for the first time, I fell in love with it, moving it into my top five favorite films, which is something I haven’t done in a very long time.
When I called my friends to INSIST that they see it and tried to explain why, I was almost tongue-tied. I knew that the fact that the lead was an older woman with one adult child taking care of a difficult older parent and running her own small business really resonated with me (and how rare that set up was in American cinema), but I also knew it was so much more than that.
I thought maybe it was the amazing ensemble acting. Michelle Yeoh is just perfect in this role. It was made for her or she was made for it. I can’t imagine she isn’t going to win the Oscar for it. Same for Stephanie Hsu who plays her daughter. And Ke Huy Quan who plays her husband. Not to mention the crazy role Jamie Lee Curtis plays as the IRS agent.
I was also blinded by this multiverse, which is the concept that there are infinite versions of ourselves with infinite paths in our lives, each of them created by choices we made. In this film, the rules of the multiverse are that some of us can jump from life to life (with different skills in each) if we do improbable things. Evelyn can save the world as we know it (even though she is just a much-burdened middle aged mom with a gay daughter who co-owns a Chinese laundry with her meek-seeming husband and is currently being audited by the IRS) because she is so “bland” in this life. Because she has taken the path-more-exciting in other lives, when she multi-verse jumps, she can be an accomplished martial arts maven, a singer, a scientist, etc. and use those skills to save the world from… her own daughter, who has literarily created a black hole in the middle of an everything bagel from her depression.
All the alternate husbands (a much more macho Waymond and a gun-toting, knife-welding father in a wheelchair) insist that she must kill her alternate universe daughter to save the world, but she can’t. Instead, she decides to save her daughter with acceptance and love, something she’s just been too busy to even think about, something she wished she’d had when she was younger.
But then we realize she did. Waymond, the meek and goofy husband, who has had divorce papers drawn up because his wife, whom he loves more than anything, can’t see him. In an alternate universe, a rich and outwardly successful Waymond tells an accomplished film star version of Evelyn that he wishes they had stayed together when younger, as she tells him about the life she has just left and that she has to leave him again to save their daughter. “So, even though you have broken my heart yet again, I wanted to say, in another life, I would have really liked just doing laundry and taxes with you.”
And that is the most romantic line I have ever heard.
The love between mother and daughter in this film is pretty awesome too (especially after the gruesome murder of so many children in Texas.)
So, go see the movie (which has been steadily growing in box office numbers since its release two months ago, which is practically unheard of in American theatrical releases, especially post-Covid). Watch it with friends and family, and just have it tear a little piece of your heart out like a really good romance should.