‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ & the genius of the multiverse

Film explores the immigrant experience through bright colours, stunning visuals, and a compelling story premise.

The multiverse is a fantastic storytelling device to detail the experiences of an immigrant family.
Credit: 
Supplied by EEAAO

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is what it says on the tin: a wonderful cavalcade of colour and sound, paired with acting and directing stellar enough to send the audience on a journey through the multiverse.

The multiverse is introduced early in the film. The rules are clearly explained: for every choice an individual makes, a new reality is created. As each version of the individual acquires new experiences and skills, they become nearly unrecognizable from the person they start as.

When watching this film, I was overwhelmed by its layered humour, action, and the captivating visuals. There is a lot to reflect on, from Evelyn and Waymond’s struggling marriage to generational conflicts between parents and children.

Amongst this broad multiplicity, the ties between the multiverse and the experiences of immigrants stood out. 

Evelyn is a Chinese immigrant who moves to the U.S. to marry her childhood sweetheart. They open a laundromat, have a daughter, and seem destined to live the rest of their lives doing taxes and folding laundry together. Then, through the multiverse, Evelyn gets a sneak peek at lives in which she never left China or opened the laundromat.

In one life she’s a movie star,  in another she’s an opera singer, in the next she’s competing for the top spot as a chef in the restaurant. Many of these alternate lives answer a question that I’m sure many immigrants have asked: “what if I never left?”

I come from an immigrant background. My parents, aunts, uncles, and a lot of my cousins immigrated from East Africa to Canada. As I listen to their stories and learn about the differences between their lives in East Africa and in Canada, I also wonder, what if they never left?

I also didn’t grow up in Canada. I spent most of my life bouncing between schools and countries, never staying anywhere longer than a year. A focal point in my life was my parents’ original choice to leave where they had settled.

While this movie focuses on a specific immigrant experience—that of Chinese Americans—I recognize a universal truth in the film: the choice to leave or to stay is the main turning point in many people’s lives.

Immigrating to another country is a risky choice. You’re removed from the culture you’re familiar with and often forced to learn a new language. In many cases, immigrants sacrifice the wealth and social status they once had in their home countries to pursue greater opportunities or escape from significant danger.

The act of moving can pivot the entire course of your life; you’re starting somewhere new with a complete blank slate. The choice to stay means maintaining access to what’s familiar, and building upon the foundations you’ve already set.

Like my own parents, Evelyn had to leave her family behind when immigrating to the U.S. Without familial support and familiar environment, the outcome of her own life sharply contrasts that of her alternate, multi-versal selves—most of which never left home.

The use of the multiverse as a storytelling device and an extended metaphor for the immigrant experience is genius. It illustrates that the smallest choice can affect your life in the most profound ways. 

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is a profound exploration of each human being’s potential. With immigration being the fulcrum for Evelyn’s life, each alternate self, shows the true depth of Evelyn’s potential—they all have branching futures to explore.

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