Caution, full of spoilers.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a brilliant, genius depiction of post-modern life, in a post-modern way.
We have all the answers to our problems, we know we do. They are what the movie says. It’s love. It’s ignoring everything except one thing. It’s tackling depression (the bagel). It’s resisting fighting because we’re confused.
We live everything, through the non-stop internet. We live everywhere, through teleportation aka flying. It’s all at once—it is. This movie is our life, just through another lens. One through multiverses. Why? Because we can only understand through technology; through hard facts, and our current theory of everything is string theory, multiverses, quantum superposition, et cetera—so that’s the only way we can be convinced of love being the point of life.
This meta almost masterpiece is written by two guys. I was puzzled when I found that out as the core relationship of the film is between a mother and her daughter. The protagonists of this 2020s version of Matrix are female, of course, as the modern background—the antithesis to the world’s patriarchy.
“Then I will cherish these few specks of time”
– Evelyn to her daughter, Joy, just as she’s suiciding
Not only is the above line a depiction of depression (everything is black, sometimes yes we might have fun. but everything really is black) but also a depiction of eros. Not love, not this umbrella word describing a generic feeling. But eros, being in love, which is total agony (aka blackness) while raving for the moments when you’re together with your erotical counterpart. Just like stars. Specks of light, amidst the black blackness.
The husband’s key fighting technique, kindness, is only the beginning of the movie’s thesis. Like another Jesus (and Socrates) he says “be kind! especially when we don’t know what the fuck is going on—which is always the case, even when we’re pretending we know who we are”. Evelyn, the mom, is convinced—she’s been in love in the past and can remember not only feeling different in that present, but also feeling amazing for that future. She knows this can happen.
Joy, the daughter, who in reality is the lack of joy, hasn’t. She’s the average western teenager, especially from the US where all other teenagers are happy and rich while you’re not. There never was a good outlook for her life. She only knows her mother’s intense negativity as a response to what’s life throwing at them—and her father’s naive kind-heartedness. That’s her thesis she wants to be an antithesis to—and she does that by pushing her limits in the Alpha universe and by getting away from her parents on the IRS-enabled one.
But she fails. She fails everywhere and at everything—that’s the nature of the true blackness of depression. She’s not convinced by her father’s proposition (which is “I choose to see the bring side—please choose too”) at all. So now, the omnipotent mother will show her her love everywhere, with everything, and all at once. Even when she’s actually the IRS agent as her husband in the hot dog finger universe where they cum cheese.
That’s where the pinkfloydian wall finally breaks.
“So, what? You’re just gonna ignore everything else? You could be anything, anywhere.”
– Joy to her mother, Evelyn
But it’s negativity that’s giving us the frame whereas now everything is positive (“you could be anything! anywhere!”).
“Why would I want to be anything, anywhere, if there is no lack of it, needed to paint the outline (and meaning!) of my doing?”
– Evelyn, in the parallel universe that she has read Hegel
I would almost love this movie—well, I did—although:
“We can do whatever we want. Nothing matters.”
– Evelyn, just as she reconciles the paradox of life
The optimistic nihilism is, yes, indeed, the point—yet can we resist the temptation when we don’t have the clarity of the superposition of depression’s thesis and antithesis? I’m not sure.
Smart people of the past weren’t sure either—that’s why they had trust that it is like that. They had faith in a God that told them that there is a point to all this, especially when life is not fun. We have no God so…
So, I wonder, what happens when the IRS agent makes Evelyn’s life too hard? It’s not going to be a walk in the park from now on, right? She still has to live her life with all the sufferings. But now she has the power to jump into another universe, so why not jump? If this universe is too hard? Maybe it’s ok?
We all know what happens then—she gets lost in the multiverse chaos. Maybe she wouldn’t because she has gained universal enlightenment and can fight the urge off (although we do see her mind wander right at the very end) but what about me, dear reader, when that movie gets slowly forgotten—how do I remain optimistic with nihilism?
Should I just watch this movie again? What if I create a symbol to represent this movie in my mind and just think of that? Say, this symbol is the word “hotdog”. I wouldn’t need to go through the process of seeing and feeling this movie again, I could be reminded of it with just “hotdog”!
But what if instead of “hotdog” this word is “god”?