Last Friday night, I gave myself a study break and went to see “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (2022) at the Somerville Theatre.
The film was great. Plot-wise, it contains many conflicts, ranging from a bicker in a laundry shop to an existential crisis. Although based on a fantastical setting, most of the scenes are as down-to-earth as the messages they deliver.
Concisely, it is a story about reconciliation between mother and daughter, between husband and wife, between existentialism and nihilism — between so many things and also within ourselves.
The film’s fundamental setting is that every time one makes a choice, there evolves a different branch in the universe. However, the protagonist, Evelyn, is living the worst life of all of her multiverses because she is bad at everything. This is why she is the center of her multiverse. This is also why the villain, Joy (her daughter), who can freely transit between all her universes and employs her skills respectively, spots Evelyn and tries to drag her into the ultimate void she constantly feels because of her omnipotence.
Here is where a common nihilist thought of the young generation enters the discourse: Everything doesn’t matter, so why should I care about anything?
As a responsible mother, Evelyn surely saved her daughter from this thought, achieved reconciliation and the family lived happily ever after. But before that, she went through quite a journey of her own.
She was once totally convinced by Joy. After seeing all the miserable or happy versions of her, her current life becomes unbearable. However, she reconciles with herself, accepting the incompatibility between her great ambitions and abject reality. This realization is achieved by thinking in her husband’s mind: solving problems with love and bravery. This very action signifies Evelyn’s reconciliation with him, who is previously negatively depicted as effeminate, cowardly, garrulous and unreliable.
“Let me go. Please,” said Joy.
And then Evelyn did. The greatest reconciliation between the mother and daughter is this interesting dynamic that once the daughter falls into complete nihilism and freedom, she needs love again.
The film’s message sparked my thinking that maybe “reconciliation” is our zeitgeist. Although it is a one-way — even a self-disadvantaged — action for peacemaking, reconciliation is different from “compromise.” The message is an active, sophisticated consideration of the lives of others or self, resulting in mutual understanding, while compromises are often mandatory and detrimental in continuing mutual rapport.
I think all issues at our age, no matter how personal or grandiose, require reconciliation so that we can live easier lives. For example, the role of an effeminate husband is reconciliation with the convention of hegemonic masculinity. The journey of Evelyn tells us to reconcile with an unsatisfying life while the screening of the film itself is a reconciliation between individual films and Hollywood production.
With that in mind, I hope we — amid COVID-19 — can reconcile with the world sooner, for we, after all, don’t have multiple universes.