Four key themes and messages in the Oscar-winning movie Everything Everywhere All At Once are individuality, generational trauma, nihilism and absurdism, and parenthood. In this in-depth analysis, we will discuss each key theme in detail.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is a 2022 film that defies easy categorization. It is a blend of comedy, drama, sci-fi, fantasy, martial arts, and animation that explores the concept of the multiverse and the lives we could have led. The film follows Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a middle-aged Chinese-American immigrant who has a laundry business and struggles with her family and finances. When she is contaced by Alpha Waymond, she discovers that she has the ability to access other versions of herself across different universes and that she must use this power to stop a cosmic threat. Along the way, she encounters various characters played by Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., James Hong, and Jamie Lee Curtis. The film is written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (also known as Daniels).
The movie uses various genres and styles to depict the diversity and complexity of Evelyn’s identity. It also draws on mo lei tau comedy, a Hong Kong subculture that mixes absurdity and humor. The movie challenges the notion of a fixed self and celebrates the potential of multiplicity and transformation.
The theme of individuality is expressed through Evelyn’s journey of self-discovery and empowerment. She learns to embrace all aspects of herself, even those that are contradictory or undesirable. She also realizes that she is not defined by her circumstances or expectations, but by her choices and actions. She finds meaning and purpose in connecting with others who share her values and vision.
The movie also shows how individuality is shaped by culture and history. Evelyn’s identity is influenced by her Chinese heritage, her immigrant experience, her family dynamics, and her personal aspirations.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is a movie that celebrates individuality as a dynamic process of becoming rather than a static state of being. It invites viewers to question their own assumptions about themselves and others, and to explore the infinite possibilities of existence.
A scene that explores the theme of identity is when Evelyn fights against Jobu Tupaki using various skills that she acquired from different versions of herself, such as martial arts, opera singing, and accounting. She demonstrates that she is not defined by one role or identity but by many possibilities.
The movie Everything Everywhere All at Once explores the theme of generational trauma by showing how Evelyn has to face her own past and her estranged daughter Joy’s pain as she travels through different versions of herself across the multiverse.
The movie depicts how Evelyn’s father Gong-Gong disapproved of her marriage to Waymond, how Evelyn struggled to accept Joy’s queer identity and tattoos, and how Joy felt pressured by Evelyn to become a verse jumper.
She even suffers from survivor’s guilt, anxiety, and depression as she tries to cope with her loss of family, home, and identity. She also passes on some of her trauma to Joy unconsciously through her parenting style. The movie also suggests that intergenerational trauma can be healed by communicating with each other and acknowledging each other’s feelings.
In one scene, Evelyn and Joy have a heartfelt conversation as two rocks on a lifeless planet, while in another scene, Evelyn reconciles with her father in his deathbed. The movie ultimately celebrates the diversity and complexity of Asian American families and their experiences.
Nihilism and Absurdism
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a movie that explores themes related to nihilism and absurdism through its plot, characters and references. Nihilism is the belief that life has no inherent meaning or value, while absurdism is the belief that life is inherently absurd and irrational.
The movie shows how Evelyn faces an existential crisis when she discovers that there are multiple parallel universes and versions of herself. She questions her identity, purpose and choices in life as she encounters different scenarios and outcomes across realities.
The movie also shows how Joy (Stephanie Hsu), Evelyn’s daughter who becomes an agent of chaos named Jobu Tupaki, embraces nihilism as a way of coping with her dissatisfaction with her life. She believes that nothing matters and tries to destroy all existence by creating paradoxes and anomalies.
The movie uses absurd humor and surreal imagery to convey the sense of meaninglessness and irrationality of life. For example, there are characters with hot dogs for hands, a nihilistic bagel, and a fight scene centered around a sex toy.
The movie ultimately offers a hopeful message that challenges nihilism and absurdism by showing how Evelyn finds meaning and value in her relationships with her family, friends, and other versions of herself. She learns to appreciate her life as it is and to accept the diversity and complexity of existence. She also realizes that she has agency and responsibility over her actions and choices across realities
The movie challenges the notion that life is meaningless and absurd in the face of chaos and uncertainty. It shows how Evelyn overcomes her nihilistic tendencies by finding meaning in her relationships, actions, and choices. It also shows how Joy realizes that nihilism is not liberating but destructive for herself and others.
The theme of parenthood is explored through Evelyn’s relationship with her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu), her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), and her father Gong Gong (James Hong).
Evelyn struggles with balancing her work, family, and personal life, feeling like she has to be everything for everyone. She also feels guilty of not being able to fulfill her father’s expectations of becoming a doctor.
Joy rebels against her parents’ traditional values and wants to pursue a career in music. She also resents Evelyn for not being supportive of her dreams and for being too busy with work. Waymond suffers from depression and feels like he has failed as a husband and a father. He also tries to reconnect with Joy by sharing his love of comic books with her.
Gong Gong suffers from dementia and often confuses Evelyn with his late wife. He also reveals that he was abusive to Evelyn when she was young, blaming himself for ruining her life.
Evelyn learns to accept herself and her choices, realizing that she doesn’t have to be perfect or please everyone. She also learns to appreciate her family and their love for each other. Joy learns to understand her mother’s sacrifices and challenges, realizing that she is not alone in feeling lost or confused. She also learns to respect her father’s passion and creativity.
A scene that explores this theme is when Evelyn meets Joy after discovering that she is Jobu Tupaki. She tries to understand why Joy became an agent of chaos and what she wants from life. She apologizes for being a bad mother and tells her that she loves her unconditionally.
Waymond learns to cope with his depression and find joy in life again. He also learns to communicate his feelings and needs with his family. Gong Gong learns to forgive himself and his daughter, realizing that they both did their best with what they had. He also learns to let go of his past and embrace his present.
The movie shows that parenthood is not easy or simple, but it is also full of wonder and beauty. It shows that parents can’t be everything everywhere all at once, but they can be enough for themselves and their children.
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