Reality is fluid and can be perceived in many different ways, every person has their own reality and or maybe multiple realities but what matters for an individual is reconciling with those realities in the end, Everything Everywhere All At Once revolves around a Chinese family who are immigrants settled in America and their hardships to survive in a foreign country where they are othered at every step( illustrated in the treatment they received from the IRS officials), it also explicates strifes in the relationships between a husband and wife, father and daughter and mother and daughter with a tinge of absurdity. All the characters are shown to have different realities where they are different versions of themselves in a different universe.
Divided into three parts we see in the beginning, the female protagonist Evelyn Wang who is the owner of a laundromat steeped in the drudgery of everyday life, she is however entrusted with the responsibility (to save the universe) by another version of her husband Waymond from Alpha verse that is threatened by an omniverse agent of chaos known as Jobu Tupaki. Evelyn "verse jumps" throughout the film reincarnating different versions of herself, the versions that she wanted to be, but couldn't in her life.
The notion of identity also plays a significant role, we see multiple identities of all the characters throughout the film oscillating between verses and it's indeed chaotic to witness but it brings into light both absurdist and existentialist philosophies. According to absurdists our existence is absurd and existentialists believed that since life is absurd and has no meaning, we as human beings have the free choice to constitute the meaning and purpose of our lives, Evelyn and her family exactly do the same, only they use love and kindness to ultimately reconcile with their inner conflicts, thus forming the meaning of their lives.
The narrative of the film is based on magic realism, as it frequently vacillates between reality and fantasy blurring the lines between both, evident especially in the scenes when Evelyn verse jumps and in the action sequences where Evelyn fights and emerges victorious using her finesse in kung-fu.
The binaries of life such as good and evil, day and night are presented through the characters of Waymond and Jobu Tupaki. While Waymond is the only character in the film who is an embodiment of hope or light that fuels his wife to triumph over every hurdle, Jobu Tupaki represents darkness, eternal sadness and mayhem through an infinite bagel-shaped black hole. Though the universe of which we are all residents is portrayed in the film as something whose existence is questioned every minute, the film preaches that in such a chaotic universe only love and kindness can save the human race, Waymond serves as the torchbearer of that love and kindness in the film.
Waymond was considered to be naive by his wife Evelyn however his resilience, his humour helped him to endure the adversities of life. He was very well aware of the difficulties in life but when he states during a conversation with Evelyn, "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. The only thing I do know is that we have to be kind. I know you see yourself as a fighter. Well, I see myself as one too. This is how I fight", he emanates humanity which every human should possess in this cynical universe.
The concept of superwoman which emerged in 1980s during the rise of post-second wave feminism where a woman excels in both her professional and public life, where woman adopted masculine language and behaviour to achieve success in her professional field is depicted through the character of Evelyn. However, the irony is, instead of an Occidental white woman, this concept is shown through an Oriental woman who used to be doubly marginalized firstly due to her colour and secondly due to her gender in their respective society. Evelyn is already shown as a victim of patriarchy through her condescending father who never approved of her marriage and for which she had to leave her country, even after years of her marriage she always looked for ways to stand up to expectations of her father evident in the fuss she made making arrangements for the Chinese New Year, moreover being a victim of patriarchy for a prolonged period of time, she ingrained it too, shown in her initial disapproval of her daughter's girlfriend Becky. However gradually we see Evelyn maintaining a fine balance between her roles as a daughter, wife and mother and also as a saviour of the universe. In all multiverse films previously we witnessed only white women with special powers as superwomen be it Wonder Woman or Black Widow, but Evelyn is an ordinary Chinese woman with extraordinary courage who goes out of her way to mend her equations with her daughter and save her daughter from the clutches of a pessimist spirit Jobu Tupaki, thus becoming a superwoman, changing the notions of superwoman as well.
One of my professors once said in his lectures that, "The narrative of reality is a fiction. And fiction is a lie" which means we are all living a lie, we are all trapped in an illusion called life as a reality which shapes our life is temporal. In a conversation between two rocks which is Evelyn and her daughter Joy show how everything around us is in a state of flux, "For most of our history, we knew the Earth was the center of the universe. We killed and tortured people for saying otherwise. That is until we discovered that the Earth is actually revolving around the Sun, which is just one sun out of trillions of suns. And now look at us, trying to deal with the fact that all of that exists inside of one universe out of who knows how many. Every new discovery is a reminder. We're all small and stupid.", this conversation metaphorically portrays the uncertainty of life. However, the rocks may symbolize the Greek myth of Sisyphus where the rock personifies an individual's persistent struggle against the essential absurdity of life.
The film stressed on the importance of human relationships especially the relationship between a mother and her daughter and between a husband and wife. It shows how each relationship can be a source of strength, empowering us and helping us to become a better version of ourselves through Evelyn and her family's attempt to achieve a peaceful resolution of all disputes.
Everything Everywhere All At Once takes one on a maddening ride of multiverse breaking the notions of time and space, also exhibiting the basic necessity for every human to be humane, in order to save the world from degeneration.
Written By Srilekha Mitra