This article contains light spoilers for Everything Everywhere All At Once.
I went to watch Everything Everywhere All At Once, the new A24 film that hits UK cinemas next month, knowing very little about it beforehand. The film’s premise seems like a tough one to sell and it’s hard to whittle its storyline down to a succinct sentence: a Chinese-American immigrant woman (Michelle Yeoh) struggles to keep her laundromat afloat, her family together and her taxes in order, while grappling with the collapse of the multiverse, which she is in charge of saving.
The Matrix meets Minari. Doctor Strange meets Turning Red. The film is a smorgasbord of themes — and simultaneously absurdist, big-hearted, humorous and action-packed. It’s everything, everywhere, all at once.
The film has currently grossed around $25 million globally (and is one of A24’s best box office debuts) — and its popularity could be a result of movie goers’ respective hunger for inter-dimensional sci-fi travel and films that honour Asian representation. As a Marvel apologist and a Chinese woman, you can find me in the intersection of that Venn diagram.
Our standards for Asian representation in film and television have increased significantly over the last few years. It's not enough to merely have Asian faces on screen; true inclusion goes deeper. In Everything Everywhere All At Once, I was instantly sold by the choppy Mandarin, Cantonese and English fusion that morphs and changes between characters. There’s a scene where Yeoh’s character, Evelyn Wang, mixes up she/her and he/him pronouns — scoffing that in Chinese, language is largely genderless. It’s an (albeit, seemingly very progressive) mistake that my mother constantly makes too.
Yeoh previously told Refinery29 that her role was “pure joy” to play. “I have not been the first lead in a movie in Hollywood in a long, long time… it's encompassing all of the things that I've been dying to do, wanting to do, grieving to do.”
This extremity of emotion is felt in part by the audience too — particularly by queer children of immigrants. Videos of TikTok users “sobbing uncontrollably” in the cinemas because of the film’s gut-punch portrayal of the relationship between an immigrant mother and her daughter have made the rounds. To top it off, a track by Japanese-American cult musician Mitski, known for her poetic, tear-inducing lyricism, plays in the credits.
At the centre of this messy, fast-paced and farcical movie is the tug and pull between Wang and her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu), a relationship that has the power to tear down multiple universes. It’s almost laughable that this is what it comes to — that the world hangs in the balance because of a fractured mother-daughter relationship — but it's something that's overwhelmingly common.
Throw in queerness, and this fraught relationship is almost to be expected in some communities. For a queer Chinese woman like myself, there were parts that were difficult to watch. The see-saw of seeking approval from your parents and honouring your own identity does feel earth-shattering.
So Joy’s proclamation that “nothing matters” isn’t a selfish and apathetic villainous tagline, but a self-preserving cry for comfort. My view of her pop star-esque costuming is her allowing her inner child to come out to play.
I have to admit, I'm overprotective about this film and any film that centres Asian women. For people who haven’t had the lived experience of having immigrant parents or being a woman of colour, this movie is just a movie. For me, it was an exploration of culture, identity and familial bonds that at times felt just too close for comfort.
It’s a world where matriarchal Asian women are staunch in their commitment to loved ones, where women are powerful and feared, yet malleable to change. A world where Asian women are powerful, resilient and resourceful, yet capable of depths of empathy.
You don’t need a multiverse to tell that story — you just need to look around.
Everything Everywhere All At Once arrives in UK cinemas May 13th