By: Arad Tadayon
In an age of monotonous movies where nothing seems to be very extraordinary, “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once” blew audiences away with its quirky and entertaining tones coupled with deeper meanings and symbolism. This Adventure/Sci-Fi movie, written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, follows the protagonist, Evelyn, who is a middle-class immigrant and runs a semi-successful laundromat with her husband Waymond. Events unfold with their daughter Joy, which leads to her getting dragged into a battle for the fate of the multiverse. The story might be a little diffi cult to understand the fi rst time around, but almost everyone can understand most of what goes on throughout the fi lm. Not only did this movie blow away audiences, but it was also highly acclaimed by critics, so much so that it’s one of the most awarded fi lms of all time, winning 7 awards out of 11 Oscar nominations. Not to mention two Golden Globes, fi ve Critic’s Choice Awards, a BAFTA, a record four SAG Awards, a record seven Independent Spirit Awards, and easily swept the four major Guild Awards. It was also the fi rst time an Asian actress won “Best Actress” at the Academy Awards and after a two-decade break from the fi lm industry Ke Huay Quan managed to surprise everyone by winning “Best Supporting Actor.” This would also be the fi rst time two Asians have won an Oscar at the same time. Obviously, the fi lm won “Best Picture” and to their own surprise, the Daniels managed to also snag “Best Director”.
Although the plot of this fi lm is interesting and captivated audiences, most people were surprised to fi nd out that the special effects in the seven Oscar-winning movie, were only done by 5 people. Due to their small budget, they had to come up with a philosophy, which was quite clever with the hand that they were dealt, and that is to spend the majority of the money on the big scenes and try to save money on the smaller stuff. To achieve this, they referred back to their previous works in music videos, using a combined mix of practical effects such as puppets, wires, and camera tricks with CGI, LED screens and green screens among other visual effects to really sell Evelyn’s change in reality.
The A24 indie fi lm had to rely on 5 people for 500 of their shots. One of the clever tricks they used, was fi lming a normal walk in New York except they used an open shutter speed and specifi c angles to make it look blurry. They then asked Michelle Yeoh, who plays Evelyn, to act in slow motion while the footage was being played on LED screens next to her, and then added the fi nishing touches, such as adding greenscreen and fast forwarding everything to really sell the fact that Evelyn was fl ying through the air.
Another cleverly shot scene utilized a wheelbarrow, oddly enough. Yeoh was sat in an offi ce chair on top of a wheelbarrow and was slowly pushed back with the help of a leaf blower to really sell the fi rst “verse jump” she did.
As mentioned previously there are a lot of symbolism in this fi lm and an interesting one is nihilism. Nihilism is the basic philosophy that rejects all religious and moral principles based on the fact that life is meaningless.
In the fi lm, we have negative nihilism in the form of Joy or rather her evil counterpart “Jobu Tupaki”, with Evelyn struggling between the forms of nihilism, and a positive nihilism in the form of Waymond. All of them have their own experiences and reasons for their beliefs. It all starts with our antagonist which is Joy, when the “alpha” version of her mother, where the multiverse began from, pushes her too far in terms of verse jumping, shattering her mind and causing her to be in every single body everywhere all at once, hence the name of the movie. This ultimately pushes her to believe that “nothing matters” and that it is pointless to do anything, because at the end of the day, it’s all irrelevant. This mindset takes her to dangerous places, which results in her taking everything that ever existed in every universe and putting it on a bagel, which is funny when you think about it, because she is proving her point further.
Evelyn on the other hand, thinks her life is a mess, especially since she doesn’t have a good relationship with her daughter in addition to thinking that marrying Waymond was not the right decision to make. As the movie progresses, we are introduced to “alpha” Waymond who is everything her Waymond isn’t; so, she takes a liking to him since he also shows her what she could’ve been if she hadn’t met Waymond and keeps reminding her how special she actually is. This changes her thinking into an optimistic view, instead of a pessimistic one, but not for long as she soon goes head-tohead with Jobu Tupaki which makes her do a very rash thing in order to save her daughter, which is to also break her own mind.
At this point in the movie, Evelyn has major internal struggles picking between joining Jobu Tupaki and trying to save her daughter. After Jobu explains how life is meaningless she says something that is very powerful: “If nothing matters, then all the pain and guilt you feel for making nothing of your life, goes away” which Evelyn eventually counter-argues by saying: “If nothing matters, then why not choose what matters to you.”
This constant change of negative and positive nihilism in Evelyn is the driving point of the fi lm and it is what pushes the movie forward, up until a point where Evelyn goes beyond negative, that she stabs Waymond in the stomach with a glass shard.
Ultimately that is when we see something that was hiding right beneath our noses, that is the power of Waymond’s mindset and how infl uential it is to those around him.
The shining light of Waymond is truly inspirational and more people should pay attention to how he chooses to live. His positivity is unmatched as he is always happy and kind hearted, this can also seep into the lives of those around him, making their lives that much better. In an alternative universe where Waymond and Evelyn do not get together, ironically both of them turn out to be super successful and it’s in this universe where Waymond says his two most powerful lines of the movie. One of which is about the way he “fi ghts” which can be a good lesson to anyone who pays close attention, he says: “When I choose to see the good side of things, I’m not being naive. It is strategic and necessary. It’s how I’ve learned to survive through everything. I know you see yourself as a fi ghter. Well, I see myself as one too. This is how I fi ght.” Even though he found success, he says: “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.” His positive attitude towards life is what makes Evelyn have a change of heart and realize life is worth fi ghting for and she shouldn’t give up on Joy.
The Daniels also talked about how this movie is relevant to the internet. In an interview with Slasher Magazine, Daniel Scheinerlt quoted: ”We’ve talked a lot about what it’s like to have grown up with the internet, and how that exacerbated the typical generational divide, and what it feels like for everyone, no matter how old you are, to live right now with the internet. So, that’s one of the key metaphors, was just like, we wanted the maximalism of the movie to connect with what it’s like to scroll through an infi nite amount of stuff, which is something we are all doing too much.” This is an interesting take as we can look around our own lives and see how it applies to us, because in a world where you can look into anyone’s unique life from the comfort of your home or practically anywhere, is mind boggling.The Daniels also talked about how this movie is relevant to the internet. In an interview with Slasher Magazine, Daniel Scheinerlt quoted: ”We’ve talked a lot about what it’s like to have grown up with the internet, and how that exacerbated the typical generational divide, and what it feels like for everyone, no matter how old you are, to live right now with the internet. So, that’s one of the key metaphors, was just like, we wanted the maximalism of the movie to connect with what it’s like to scroll through an infi nite amount of stuff, which is something we are all doing too much.” This is an interesting take as we can look around our own lives and see how it applies to us, because in a world where you can look into anyone’s unique life from the comfort of your home or practically anywhere, is mind boggling.
The only reason why we don’t question it anymore is the fact that the internet has been intertwined with our lives, we rely on it for everything now, such as school, work, or entertainment; thus it has become this omnipresent extension of ourselves or rather that is how the new generation feels, since they were born into a world where the internet already existed. It’s easy to get caught up in other people’s lives and how extravagant they are compared to our own, making us feel like we are not enough. This is where we have to remember that we will never be able to experience everything in the world so it’s, better to keep your mind at ease and live your own life with the unique experiences you yourself face.