Finding Meaning in the Multiverse: Lessons from Everything Everywhere All at Once


Graphic: Emma Wong

Jarret Zundel

In March 2023, it was nearly impossible to avoid hearing about “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” The film won seven Oscars, including Best Picture, and Michelle Yeoh made history as the first Asian woman to win the Best Actress award. 

“For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities,” Yeoh said. 

Behind all these glamorous awards is a film that combines the deepest themes with the wackiest scenes. While the film portrays the generational struggle between immigrantants and their children specifically through an Asian family, its themes of kindness and purpose are universal. The film features the concept of the multiverse, where infinite possibilities shape one’s life. While the film initially appears to be a whimsical and absurd take on life, it ultimately delivers an extraordinary portrayal of emotional complexity. As characters learn to accept life’s meaninglessness and pain, they strive to find their own happiness and deliver a profound message about the importance of acceptance, kindness, and self-discovery.

The opening scene of the film introduces Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), a middle-aged woman burdened by the stress of her family’s failing laundromat, her troubled marriage to Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), and her disapproving father. However, her breaking point comes from the growing distance between herself and her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu), whose struggles with the meaninglessness of life threaten to unravel the multiverse. The strained relationship between Evelyn and Joy reflects the complex familial bonds within Asian families. Even before the high-pressure fate of the multiverse is introduced, tensions run high in the family. Waymond wants a divorce, and Joy is frustrated with her mother’s unrealistic expectations and initial resistance to accepting her lesbian identity. The multiverse serves as a metaphor for the growing divide between mother and daughter. 

Nevertheless, the film is able to seamlessly shift from a family drama to an absurdist action-comedy. In one universe, Evelyn fights with fanny-pack nunchucks and plays the piano with her feet. In another, her fingers are hotdogs. Yeoh skillfully employs physical comedy to convey the different roles that Evelyn has in each universe. 

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” exhibits a metaphysical multiverse and the exploration of multiple universes, yet at its core — and also right on the surface, it is a poignant domestic drama, a humorous portrayal of marriage, a story of immigrant striving, and a touching depiction of the complicated bond between a mother and daughter. Through traversing the multiverses, Evelyn discovers that small joys are what make life worth living. From this film, viewers can learn to avoid dwelling on that with which they are unsatisfied and to focus on things that make them happy. A life is, after all, no more than a speck of dust in the universe. So why not enjoy the ride?