“Everything Everywhere All at Once” Is Everything That I Want to See in a Movie

This movie. THIS MOVIE. This movie is the movie that I didn’t know I needed, but my life is now complete after watching the film Everything Everywhere All at Once. 

Everything Everywhere All at Once written and directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert is wacky, heartfelt, genre-bending, and probably the most unique movie I’ve ever seen but also had some deeply realistic and relatable moments among the sci-fi and surrealist elements. True to its name, this movie was so good at conveying so many complex things all at once. It covered so many facets of life, relationships, and family. Here’s just some of the things that I loved (but no real spoilers!): 

Seeing Michelle Yeoh in this kind of role. Rarely do we get to see a movie of this scale with an older woman as the lead. Not only that, but we get to see an older woman that is a mom, wife, and immigrant kicking ass. Michelle Yeoh as a flawed superhero-type in an action sci-fi-y movie? YOU NEVER SEE THAT. Tell me, have you ever seen a Marvel movie that doesn’t have some hot young thing as the lead? No. I bow down to the icon, the legend, the queen: Michelle Yeoh.  

A U.S. film where English isn’t at the forefront and what that means. This movie features a Chinese immigrant family in the United States who speaks Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. I loved seeing a movie on the big screen with a realistic representation of how an immigrant family would speak to each other and others around them. It makes sense that a movie about an immigrant family wouldn’t be entirely in English.  

Evelyn’s relationship with her father and what that tells us about her relationship with her husband through language. When Michelle Yeoh’s character Evelyn speaks to her father who they call Gong Gong, which means grandpa in Chinese (played by James Hong), she speaks Cantonese but when she speaks to her husband Waymond (played by Ke Huy Quan) she uses mostly Mandarin with some English words mixed in. This might not seem like a big deal but one of the tensions in the movie is that Gong Gong never wanted Evelyn to be with Waymond and cuts off contact with her when she runs away to be with Waymond. It just shows that Evelyn and her husband Waymond’s divide as a couple and gives a little insight to the fact that they are different and come from different families and different cultures. Evelyn’s father never supported her relationship with Waymond and the subtle difference of language supports the divide and differences between the two. Even when Raymond and Gong Gong talk to each other, they don’t even speak the same language to each other, but they can understand each other.  

Evelyn’s relationship with her daughter through language. When Evelyn speaks to her daughter Joy (played by Stephanie Hsu), she speaks a mix of Mandarin and English to her daughter who barely speaks Mandarin and communicates back to her parents in English. When Evelyn tries to speak to her daughter, she often can’t find the words in English to express what she wants to her. So instead, she tells her to eat healthier because she’s gaining weight. It hurts Joy for her mom to be so cold toward her and her inability to show that she loves her through caring words. The cultural differences between the two were so relatable. Joy grew up in the United States while her mom still finds the United States a place where she doesn’t quite feel at home, and they often clash and don’t understand each other because of those differences. It reminds me of my own relationship with my mother who often doesn’t say I love you, but instead asks if I’ve eaten or comments on my appearance. It’s her way of showing she’s paying attention and cares.  

Taxes and navigating a bureaucratic and confusing tax system as a storyline. The U.S. tax system is confusing as **** for anyone let alone an immigrant family. Evelyn and Waymond own a struggling laundromat and are being audited by the IRS. Simply put, the meeting with the IRS does not go well. Tax jargon is confusing, and the IRS inspector, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, chastises Evelyn for not understanding how to file her taxes for her business and blaming her for not bringing her daughter to the meeting to translate. I think we can all relate to how taxes make no sense. Growing up with my parents who are immigrants, I’ve had to help them through understanding the confusing financial systems of our capitalist country. I still have flashbacks of trying to help my parents fill out FAFSA forms for when I was applying for college and barely understanding any of it. And because this is something I am writing for NWLC, I get to relate it back to our work and how people shouldn’t need a translator to understand the tax system. Working class people shouldn’t have to pay astronomical amounts of taxes to keep their businesses afloat. Everyone should be paying their fair share of taxes, especially billionaires. We need to Tax the Patriarchy, but I digress.  

Everything about this movie was so good. From the hotdog hands (you’ll have to go see it to know what I mean) to Michelle Yeoh playing herself at a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon premiere, to the ending that made me laugh and cry simultaneously. This movie and the way it portrayed the complexities of immigrant families, language, and relationships was *chef’s kiss*.