By Natalie Ho
What if I had decided to go to that school instead? What if I had worked harder? What if I could have led a better life than the one I am living right now?
We would be lying to ourselves if we said that such thoughts have never crossed our minds. Admittedly, I find myself entertaining such thoughts from time to time as a form of escapism from my overwhelming work. Sometimes, I find myself indulging in my could-have-beens, living out the life I always dreamt of living.
For me, such thoughts are just passing moments, but for some of us, they dwell just a little longer.
The life that we are living right now is a result of the choices we have made. If we had made different choices, would our lives be better?
Maybe some of us have made decisions that we regret. Or, maybe some of us feel overwhelmed and struggle to find meaning in our lives.
Even outside our own little worlds, it all seems bleak with constant news of school shootings, updates on the ongoing war in Ukraine, and the climate ticking bomb. How then do we find hope and happiness amidst all the chaos?
Everything Everywhere All At Once brings these ideas to the fore through its main character, Evelyn Quan, and the tragedy that is her life. The film’s unique blend of sci-fi and absurdist comedy has left many of its viewers reflecting on their lives; which is maybe what many of us need right now — a new perspective.
The opening scene introduces us to Evelyn’s life. She is an exhausted mother trying to sort through piles of receipts to prepare for her tax auditing appointment. At the same time, she has to prepare a party for her father who still disapproves of her.
She barely has the time to even talk to her husband, Waymond, and her daughter, Joy, who are both frustrated with her. On top of that, she struggles to understand Waymond’s easy-going attitude and accept Joy’s gay identity.
Things take an interesting turn when Evelyn goes for her tax auditing appointment at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with her husband and father. In the lift, she encounters alpha-Waymond, who is her husband from an alternate universe. He warns her that the evil being, Jobu Tupaki, is bringing chaos to the multiverse and only Evelyn can stop her.
The pair is then thrown into a battle against Jobu’s minions and eventually against Jobu herself, who is revealed to be Joy.
In the midst of sausage-finger universes, racoon chefs, and googly-eye rocks, the beating heart of the film lies in Evelyn’s struggle to come to terms with her biggest “what-if”.
In order to fight Jobu and her minions, Evelyn has to harness skills from her other life paths by “verse-jumping”. She discovers that if she had not chosen to be with Waymond, she would have fulfilled her dreams of becoming a movie star and led a better life. Unknowingly, Evelyn had always held onto that regret which had affected their relationship.
Many of us, like Evelyn, might be holding onto certain regrets or are struggling to keep our heads above the water. With an added layer of heart-pumping martial arts sequences and a degree of insanity, this movie is a beacon of hope for all the Evelyns out there.
It tells us that life is everything everywhere all at once. It can get messy and overwhelming, threatening to pull us under.
Though we cannot control what life throws at us, we can control how we choose to let it affect us. Instead of dwelling on our regrets and what-could-have-beans, we can choose to look at our life right now and intentionally focus on the good things. Doing so will allow us to live life with a more positive and hopeful outlook.