[The following essay contains SPOILERS; YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!]
One of Everything Everywhere All at Once’s many spectacularly choreographed fight scenes revolves around Michelle Yeoh desperately struggling to prevent her opponent from… shoving a suggestively shaped trophy up his ass. Granted, the narrative justifies this bizarre situation (the process of “verse jumping” requires “statistical anomalies”—basically, just doing random shit)… but is that really relevant to the conversation? The premise is inherently absurd!
Which is, of course, the entire point; indeed, you could argue that “absurdity” is the film’s overarching theme, its central thesis. After all, in a multiverse of infinite possibilities (including an alternate reality in which mankind evolved flaccid, hotdog-like digits instead of functional fingers), aren’t such concepts as love, free will, and the existence of life itself utterly ridiculous? When literally anything is possible, do any of our "choices" actually matter? Humans, ultimately, are akin to ants infesting a chunk of rock orbiting a ball of hot gas suspended in an incomprehensibly vast universe—and yet we concern ourselves with matters that are, in the grand scheme of the cosmos, trivial, insignificant, and inconsequential.
Laundry and taxes.
Under ordinary circumstances, this unbearably nihilistic outlook would be a poor fit for a zany kung fu comedy. Fortunately, directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively credited as “Daniels”) are primarily interested in refuting their characters’ bitter cynicism. “Sure,” they argue, “the world may be messy, chaotic, and illogical—but that’s no excuse to stop caring!”
This stubbornly optimistic attitude is personified by Waymond Wang, protagonist Evelyn’s long-suffering—but nevertheless tenaciously patient, loyal, and compassionate—husband (played with pitch perfect earnestness by Ke Huy Quan, whose experience as a child actor in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies makes him effortlessly believable as the most lovable man on multiple Earths). During the movie’s poignant climactic montage, one variant of Waymond (who inhabits what appears to be a Wong Kar-wai drama) succinctly outlines his philosophy:
When I choose to see the good side of things, I’m not being naïve. It’s strategic and necessary. It’s how I’ve learned to survive through it all.
Underneath all the slapstick, martial arts, and sci-fi technobabble, it is this compelling call to action that truly defines Everything Everywhere All at Once. The Daniels challenge the audience to persevere, to be kind to others despite our own pain, to give a shit even when it seems as though nobody else does.
It’s a morally simplistic message, but that hardly diminishes its emotional resonance—or its relevance.