Everyone is bawling their eyes out after Everything Everywhere All at Once (EEAO) swept the 95th Oscars, winning 7 out of 11 nominations. And with such heartwarming speeches by the winners, the bawling is all worth it. When a movie touches your heart, it unfolds in layers long after the first encounter on screen. All memorable art carries that quality – the capacity to stick and to make the audience think. EEAO does all of that and more.

EEAO follows a Chinese immigrant named Evelyn, played by Michelle Yeoh, who is juggling many things in life and suddenly finds herself with the power to travel to different multiverses. Danger lurks, and Evelyn is the only person who can save the day. She runs a dry cleaning service with her family, and their small firm is under scrutiny for tax-related issues. The family does not seem to be doing well with finances drying up, Waymond wanting to divorce Evelyn, and their child drifting apart from her family. Things don’t look bright.

Written and directed by the Daniels, the movie is tied together by a range of things from philosophies like Taoism, Existentialism, and Nihilism to multiverses, families, belonging, and acceptance. This layered narrative and the possibility of discovery is what makes the movie endearing.

One of the most heartbreaking but also reaffirming scenes happens between Waymond, played by Ke Huy Quan, and Evelyn in a different multiverse, the one where they do not end up together but are rich and successful in each of their life paths. When Evelyn is able to access this universe, she meets Waymond. In this brief but emotional encounter, Waymond tells her: “In another life, I would have really liked doing just laundry and taxes with you.

A still from the EEAO trailer on youtube, also the scene where Waymond delivers the memorable dialogue. (A24)

What makes this moment brilliant is that there is the life that Waymond talks about, the very ‘another life’ where the real Evelyn belongs, where they do laundry and taxes. And yet things are not working out well for either of them. The successful Waymond, despite his riches and power, does not seem very happy. And the actual Waymond, who has what the successful Waymond thinks he wants, is also not free from his troubles.

In another life, I would have really liked doing just laundry and taxes with you.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

This brief scene challenges the ideological belief we often carry – if I had this and that, I might be happy. But in reality, we might not be happy even if we had those things. Each Waymond wants what the other has and assumes that might make him happy. But when reality plays out in the respective multiverses, each Waymond still lacks something.

The joy and pain that results from choices is an underlying theme in the movie. Every choice or lack of choice leads to a different life path, not just for our protagonist Evelyn, but for us all. Daydreaming about what would happen if that person reciprocated our feelings or if we got that promotion is something we all do from time to time. And our ultra-connected world is of little help, making us feel we are constantly missing out on something. But here is some solace in learning that we are always missing out on something like Waymond from the different multiverses. Things will never be 100% perfect or complete. And that is okay.

Harvard psychologist Dr. Susan David calls this way to Walk Your Why. She writes, “Think about choices not as better or worse, but as equal and different. Accept the loss inherent in choice and move ahead with clarity.”

Every choice we make opens some doors and seals some other doors. We cannot, for obvious reasons, access multiverses like Evelyn can, but even if we could, how different might we be from the Waymond we meet? We can never tell of the things that never passed, but we can tell of the things that are. And that is the universe we work with.

“Think about choices not as better or worse, but as equal and different. Accept the loss inherent in choice and move ahead with clarity.”

Dr. Susan David

While accepting the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, James Hong, 94, who plays the father of the protagonist, had this to say, “I don’t know what they were thinking when they wrote that script. Did you understand all of it? I’m not sure. Well, go see it a second and third time and maybe you’ll understand.”

In plain sight, what EEAO does should not have made sense and yet it does, and that is what art does. And that is what we do – navigate our way through the many joys and pains of choices and more.

(Cover image: Still from EEAO trailer on Youtube. A24)

Posted by:Alfa M. Shakya

Someone who likes to make things.

What do you think about the post?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s