Every Genre, Conflict, and Perspective All at Once

“The Daniels” Paint a New Approach to Life


Graphic by Jane.

Jane Nam, Elizabeth Ryu, Jade Lee, and Grace Chae

The best way to describe Everything Everywhere All at Once is a melting pot of multiverse, romance comedy, heartwarming family story, coming of age, and more. While the eye-catching silliness shown in the trailer pulled me to the screen, it unexpectedly brought me on an emotional rollercoaster that lasted through the entire movie.  

For Korean theaters, this fascinating film was released in October. Despite the delay, the movie itself enjoyed a rather successful run. Written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, professionally known as “the Daniels”, the movie has the duo’s distinct style that carry over from their first film Swiss Army Man: childish humor and nonsense. The unique and eccentric storylines, coupled with vivid colors and symbols, are confusing to grasp initially, but the underlying messages captivate the audience.

Everything Everywhere All at Once covers the story of a Chinese immigrant, named Evelyn, who has to save the world, resolve their personal financial problems, and reconcile with her family. In order to face the dimension-destroying antagonist, Evelyn visits different versions of herself in other alternate universes to borrow their particular skills.  

The actual movie broke the preconceptions I had from watching the trailer. It was unlike any other hero movie with a cliche multiverse trope. Instead, Everything Everywhere All at Once included situations that any demographic can relate to (I got so attached to the story and characters that I was practically depressed for an hour after walking out of the theater!). The Daniels’ successfully captivated the audience’s attention with their distinct style: a stark contrast between an immature sense of humor, and the heart-to-heart, emotionally complex script.

Poster courtesy of James Jean

Even with the childish, and albeit, occasional sexual innuendos, the directors successfully capture the moral of the story, prompting the audience to think about their own life. It’s also noteworthy to add that the directors never let the story get too serious. Whenever the plot encounters a depressing moment, a silly joke kicks in to balance it out. The somber atmosphere doesn’t engulf the audience – rather, it lingers, prompting them to question what the meaning of life is as they continue to watch the movie. Having these goofy moments set the tone for Evelyn’s character development was an unexpected way to lead a coming-of-age film with a meaningful and intricate plot. Oddly enough, the Daniels’ signature choice to add goofy one-liners felt just right.

But let’s go back to the main character and her development. Evelyn is initially shown as the stereotypical Asian tiger mom. Rigid and overly conservative in her beliefs, she quarrels with her wayward daughter and her marriage seems to be falling apart. While jumping through alternate universes and meeting different versions of herself, Evelyn is able to grow as a person. She changes her perspective towards life, acknowledging her lack of acceptance and love towards others. This realization prevents Evelyn’s character from ending up as just another “Asian mom”. 

Using all the skills she acquired from different versions of herself, Evelyn repels her adversaries all at once. Photo courtesy of A24.

Evelyn may be a tiger mom, but she also became a chef, a Kung Fu specialist, a famous actress, and even a sign spinner. As Evelyn continues to see diverse versions of herself lead lives that are vastly different from her own morals, she discovers that she can also see others in her alternate selves. Evelyn, by the end of the movie, finally understands that love and acceptance are the two key ingredients to a happier life. Her growth challenges the audience to do the same. 

Deirdre (left) and Evelyn (right) sit in silence as they start to understand each other, despite being polar opposites. Photo courtesy of A24.

You are not unlovable. There is always something to love. Even in a stupid, stupid universe where we have hot dogs for fingers, we get very good with our feet.

— Evelyn Wang , Everything Everywhere All at Once

Family dynamic is another main topic in this movie that is worth mentioning. Asian tiger moms, being stereotypical as they are, always bring a mother-daughter conflict to the plot. This movie started out with dissension between a lesbian daughter and her conservative mom, which drives the plot towards all kinds of family crises, such as divorce, parents disapproving of marriage, language barriers, and other similar conflicts before finally reaching a happily-ever-after ending. “There’s a lot going on, but at the center of it is this, it is about a family of people trying to figure out how to get along and how to accept each other for who they are,” said Jamie Lee Curtis, the actor who played Deirdre, the auditor, in an interview with Around the Table

Once realizing the importance of acceptance and love, Evelyn protects her family from the antagonist in an alternate universe. Photo courtesy of A24.

The whole movie, unlike others under similar genres in the market, accurately represents cultural diversity. The directors represented various cultures, such as Chinese, LGBTQ+, pop culture, and so forth, in a meticulous fashion – the accuracy and attention to detail in this aspect left most viewers satisfied, with little to no critique on the representation of the aforementioned communities. Most Asian viewers, including myself, particularly praised the movie’s successful portrayal of authentic Chinese culture and immigrant life in the States. 

I was especially impressed by the accuracy of the interactions between the first, second, and third-generation immigrants, as well as the Daniels’ ability to capture the complex relationship between multiple generations. Moreover, I was particularly pleased that the actors in this movie weren’t marginalized to limited roles that could be narrowed down to mere stereotypes – it’s about time Hollywood prioritizes accurate representation.

As an Asian teenager who is going through a big moment in my life with all the important decisions I have to make, this questioned my existence even more. Like shaking a snow globe to make the glitter float, it shook my brain and made me rethink everything. This was the type of movie I had never seen before, in a good way. 

Everyone has the potential to do the one and only purpose they have. No one has an answer to live the perfect life, but you can find the one that works for you in your own unique way through failures and successes. And hopefully one day, you and I can become like Evelyn.