If nothing else Everything Everywhere All At Once is a unique movie. I suppose there are a few parallels I could think of the second Doctor Strange movie, Cloud Atlas, or The One. None of those are exactly “normal” movies, so we’re back to “unique” with Everything Everywhere All At Once.
And by “unique,” I really mean in terms of plot rather than theme. The theme is basically what you’d expect from a contemporary movies–it’s really not all that ‘unique’ in that sense at all. But the plot is interesting (spoiler alert!). Evelyn Wang is running a laundromat with her husband Waymond Wang, and trying to balance her troubles with the IRS with their Chinese New Year Party for the neighborhood with her daughter’s ‘coming out’ to her traditional father with a general sense of malaise.
On a visit to the IRS, Waymond is taken over by another Waymond (“Alpha Waymond”), who tells Evelyn that the multiverse 1) exists and 2) is under attack by a mysterious individual and 3) can only be saved by Evelyn learning how to draw on the skills of other Evelyns who had taken different paths in life.
We eventually learn that the individual attacking the multiverse is Joy, Evelyn and Waymond’s daughter who in one universe has looked into all of the universes at once (or something–that part is a bit unclear) and been driven mad by the fact that nothing really matters since everything is possible and in the multiverse everything does happen. Why does it matter that I’m unhappy here when somewhere there’s a version of me who is happy? Why does it matter that some version of me is starving while this version of me is (perhaps too) well-fed? When everything is true who cares about what I think, feel, or believe now? Nihilism is the only real option, so Joy builds a way in which she can cease to exist.
Evelyn begins to go down the same path as Joy, but is rescued by Waymond who reminds everyone of the importance of kindness. Evelyn then tells Joy that she understands why she is so miserable, but that kindness and love for each other is what gives meaning to life.
Like I said, it’s a unique film with a fairly trite message. “Love your family despite the fact that they drive you crazy” is a common message (and a good one!), but it’s not a message that can bear the weight of existence. We as Christians know that this insufficient truth isn’t enough to give meaning to life. That only comes from a relationship with the Creator and source of life–a relationship that is only built on another, rather than on ourselves.
Still, this is an interesting movie, and one that’s worth watching. Recommended.
Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast an Amazon Associate (which is linked in this blog), and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO