While parodying every movie genre and attempting to be… well, everything, Everything Everywhere All At Once manages to evoke the full range of emotion, eventually breaking down audiences into tears to tell a very simple and relatable message that anyone anywhere can easily echo.
A24’s latest indie film has seemed to fascinate so many audiences that within weeks of its release, people were already calling it “overrated”… translation: It’s an absolute masterpiece that will make you ball your eyes out.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is split in 3 parts and tells the story of laundromat co-owner, Evelyn Wang(played by Michelle Yeoh), who’s husband, according to her, is “useless” and who’s daughter is a “mess”.
The film makes it clear that our titular protagonist is not just any Evelyn. 30 minutes in, we learn that she is the Worst Evelyn in the multiverse–among her many other versions. She is under pressure from the IRS, has a failing business, marriage, and failed mother-daughter relationship, and she never got the chance to pursue any of her dreams due to marrying and settling down.
Evelyn is rigid, bitter, and unaware of how her coldness effects her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan–known for Indiana Jones and The Goonies), and daughter, Joy, who is (contrary to her name) struggling with depression and apathy. She rebukes Joy’s sexuality and frequently overlooks many of her husband’s constructive qualities that are not only keeping the family together, but also afloat.
As Alpha Waymond (Waymond from the Alphaverse) points out, this is what makes this version of Evelyn the most capable to take on Jobu Tupaki, the antagonist and Evelyn’s former protégé who she pushed “too far” in verse-jumping, causing her to become an omnipresent multiverse cult leader who constructs an Everything Bagel black hole. Every other Evelyn that was successful or more fulfilled has failed thus far—making Worst Evelyn unique.
The film brilliantly constructs a dichotomy between two simple objects: an Everything Bagel and an Eye Sticker, transforming them into a deeply meaningful symbols of existential dread and universal empathy.
The Fate Of The Multiverse: Everything Bagels VS Googly Eyes
We are first introduced to the Everything Bagel when Diedre(played by Jamie Lee Curtis), a butt-plug award winning IRS employee, makes a thick black circle over a receipt that she later staples to her forehead just between her eyes–indicating that she is one of Jobu Tapaki’s (the antagonist’s) followers. The thick black circle, we later find, represents the black Everything Bagel. Again, we see Everything Bagels as Alpha Waymond warns Evelyn about the dangers of giving into the temptation of staying in a different universe that she might prefer to her own.
We later come to find out that the Everything Bagel is the invention of Jobu Tapaki to act as a black hole as all along she simply wants to end all of her multiverse existences by being destroyed by the Bagel. Alle this so that she doesn’t have to continue to suffer the existential truth–that nothing really matters. It becomes clear that this symbol is everywhere throughout the film, from sesame seeds to our failed hopes and dreams.
In Part 2, Everywhere, Evelyn is everywhere, all at once. Her mind is broken and now she too can experience all alternate realities simultaneously and call on the powers of every existing version of herself. She becomes apathetic, just like Jobu Tupaki.
Waymond, who we are made aware early on is the one sticking eye stickers on objects (something Evelyn expresses that she hates), is attacked by Omnipresent Evelyn who simply doesn’t care about anything anymore.
However, what we are soon to learn is that these stickers begin to symbolize selflessness and kindness. We first see them in the laundromat to juxtapose Evelyn’s lack of patience and awareness to Waymond’s loving kindness, compassion, and the way he communicates.
Although Evelyn has becomes omnipresent as Juju Tapaki exposes her to the existential dread of the everything bagel and attacks Waymond, he continues to plea for her and everyone to just try to be kind. This causes her to re-experience Waymond in all multiverse, including her own. Ultimately, she chooses the universe of her worst self as despite everything falling apart and having the choice of returning to better Evelyns in alternate universes unstifled by Waymond or Joy, the love and kindness of Waymond and of her daughter moves her so much that she wants to be there for her loved ones and choose hope and compassion over apathy.
When she chooses to use her verse-jumping capabilities to “fight with kindness”, she places one of Waymond’s Googley Eye stickers between her eyes and helps everyone she comes into contact with to rekindle their universal joy. Subsequently, she chooses her worst version because she recognizes the value of her life and those around her, even though she did not get to live out her dreams as other Evelyns did.
She finally is able to value her husband and recognize his loving and constructive qualities, she accepts her daughter’s sexuality and supports her choices. She finally listens to Joy, sees Waymond, appreciates the life they all built and she finally comes to accepts herself.
Waymond Subverts Misconceptions About Masculinity
At the start of the film, it is clear that Evelyn does not value Waymond let alone take notice of how he uses his vulnerability and compassion to resolve the issues going on around him–something that she continually fails at. Audiences are led to believe that we, much like Evelyn, ought not to take him seriously. He isn’t the most assertive, he isn’t domineering, he does sweet gestures for Diedre and disgruntled customers that Evelyn always seems to miss. He is caricatured as a man that is easy to walk-over, but this is a misdirect, as the film is trying to tell us something.
Directors, Kwan and Sheinhart illustrate this through their explanation that the Alpha universe (a play on the Alpha vs Beta dynamic that is pervasive in hypermasculine discourse), is where Alpha Waymond is from. Internet culture and toxic masculinity continually reaffirm the concept of Alpha males vs. Beta males, something that is rampant in popculture, but hugely problematic.
While Worst Evelyn remarks on Alpha Waymond’s striking macho-ness, in comparison to her Waymond’s demureness, Alpha Waymond ultimately fails to fight and stop Jobu Tapaki. He only values Worst Evelyn conditionally, as long as she can be “the right Evelyn” to appease his agenda of saving Alphaverse and he has little regard for her ultimately. Whereas Worst Evelyn’s goofy, kind, shy, and loving Waymond not only salvages their business and tax rapport with Dierdra, but he becomes the ultimate key to saving the entire multiverse from the Everything Bagel black hole.
In this way, the message is clear, that progress is made through kindness, communication, vulnerability and compassion– not through overthrow, fighting, disregard, apathy, dominance and conflict.
Waymond subverts these tropes and cultural norms surrounding what it is to be masculine by making the same qualities that many cisgender heteronormative men reject– goofiness, proactiveness, constructiveness, communication, vulnerability and compassion— essential to the film’s plot resolution.
Though he may not have powers like Alpha Waymond and though he cannot fight as Alpha Waymond fights, he fights with kindness and proactiveness, and does not have to change that for his values to reign superior at the end of the day.
This ultimately brings Omnipresent Evelyn back from Tupaki’s existential dread and catalyzes her to fight with kindness to save her daughter.
Jobu Tapaki. Existential Crises, and the Chaos of Online Culture
When we’re first introduced to Jobu Tupaki, she is changing to any and every version of herself. Her promenade down the IRS hallway is reminiscent of what a millennial or Gen Z might experience scrolling their Tik Tok feed. She fights the guards by popping their heads with confetti, hitting them with dildos and pretending to bleed with all organic ketchup.
Jobu Tupaki doesn’t want to kill Evelyn, she just wants her to understand the crushing weight of what she feels. She feels it all, every weighted bit of humanity’s collective existence, all at once. She can harness it… but she couldn’t really be bothered and it doesn’t change the pain of what every Joy has had to go through, including the deeply depressed Joy from Worst Evelyn’s universe.
In some ways, Worst Evelyn reflects the inability to focus or introspect, otherwise she could know to value the things right in front of her. Alpha Evelyn is hinted to have fallen to the same shortcoming when she pushed Jobu Tupaki to her limits. Like Jobu Tupaki’s mind, many generations are being pushed to their limits by the mind bending world of social media which floods us with everything happening all at once, every time we open our phone, and distracts us from the power of the moment.
Since social media has been popularized, depression rates and that of other mental illnesses have steeply risen and yet it’s harder for humanity to communicate and to express the pain that many of us experience. Jobu Tupaki’s only mission is to find someone who can understand her.
Similarly, there is always something we could’ve done or could be doing. The grass always appears greener elsewhere just as it did for Worst Evelyn when she saw famous Evelyn’s universe. There is always an alternate route, a lifestyle, and something to be compared to.
Like Tupaki, we all experience this crushing weight and in spite of being subjected to so many communicative avenues, in spite of the power we hold at our finger tips, we are more isolated and misunderstood than ever, lacking the social as well as mental factories to be collectively constructive or compassionate in how we relate to one another.
This is what makes Waymond’s approach to resolving these issues through compassion, communication, and vulnerability all the more meaningful… even more so when we realize how Evelyn (and the audience, by extension) had overlooked so much good that was right in front of us.
Weirdly the Best Fight Scenes, Cameos, and Inside Jokes
Even though the film rips off many cliches, it manages to create it’s own unique attributes and inside jokes. Viewers must pay attention to the smallest of details to really appreciate the full experience because these jokes can be twice as hilarious if you noted the set up for them in Part 1.
Everything Everywhere All At Once was the first film ever to pull off a vicious fight scene involving butt plugs, another involving a fanny pack, and another involving arrow spinning. This form of choreography was not only strange but highly innovative, mesmerizing, wonderfully choreographed, comedic, and well executed. The film manages to be so outrageous and unpredictable but its jokes are quite clever and brilliantly interwoven into its choreography. Much of this film’s genius is in its attention to detail.
The point of it all is to value and be present with the lives that we lead, to choose kindness and compassion over combativeness and dominance, and to learn to appreciate those around us and the lives we build with them. However, it’s likely that many viewers will expand on the meaning of the film and have more personal interpretations.