Review: ‘Everything everywhere at once’ perfects optimistic nihilism

Everything Everywhere All At Once Review Culture EEAAO 02491 R


In 2012, the legendary Twitter account @horse_ebooks tweeted, “Everything happens so much.Despite bordering on nonsense, the post captured the sense of exhaustion that comes with trying to keep up with the flow of inputs that demand attention every day. It’s in this place of chaotic resignation that Everything Everywhere All at Once takes action for clarity.

Everything Everywhere, the latest from the directing duo known as Daniels (Swiss Army Man), centers on Evelyn (played in dozens of incarnations by Michelle Yeoh), a woman who is simply trying to file her taxes to keep the laundromat she owns with her. man to retain, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), running. Her daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), wants to take her friend to the birthday party for Evelyn’s elderly father (James Hong), who is old-fashioned and won’t approve of their relationship. All the while, Waymond struggles to find the space to tell Evelyn he wants a divorce. It is told frantically, but also unfolds as a perfectly recognizable story about the chaos of life and the feeling of being pulled in a thousand directions at once. And then the multiverse opens up.

Stories of multiversa are countless in popular culture. For proof, look no further than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Ironically, Daniels—Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert—turned down the chance to work on Loki, which traded heavily in multiverse capabilities.) Rarely are they explored as deeply and meaningfully as in Everything Everywhere. Evelyn’s foray into her multiverse gives her perspective, a chance to reconcile her boring job, whiny husband and troublesome daughter with versions of her life in which she’s a hibachi chef, movie star and – in a twist – a literal rock. Both soul-searching and sci-fi, Kwan and Scheinert’s film takes all this to its emotional and logical extremes. But instead of coming to a nihilistic conclusion, it asks a more optimistic question: If there are no rules, no consequences, then why not go wild?

Absurdity ripples through every scene. Navigation through the multiverse involves performing silly, random actions like eating lip balm or accepting a prize, and every time Evelyn or a member of her family makes a decision, a different timeline branches out. The point is that seemingly small or unimportant decisions can lead to radically different outcomes. Throughout Everything Everywhere, characters perform outrageous actions to acquire new abilities, but in the end it’s the minuscule and improbable that ultimately change the course of Evelyn’s party for her father.

At first, it’s easy to see why Evelyn is frustrated with her job, her husband, and her daughter. But after seeing the many ways their lives could have unfolded, the countless possibilities of who they could have become, a deeper truth emerges. When nothing matters, all that matters is what you choose. The multiverse can contain an infinite amount of pain and heartbreak, but it also contains an infinite amount of creativity, passion, beauty and connection.

Through that lens, cynicism itself is distilled into just another choice. It is not naive or ignorant to choose to appreciate small moments, small acts of kindness. In a world where so much can feel insignificant, choosing cruelty or hopelessness has no greater value than choosing kindness and empathy. If anything, choosing destruction only speeds up entropy.



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