I love movies like The Matrix that present a classic philosophical dilemma, woven in with entertaining special effects and memorable characters to aid with digestion. In The Matrix, we’ve seen the age-old question of “How do you know what is real?” explored against a backdrop of sci-fi, guns and romance. Everything Everywhere takes another deep and meaningful question from Nietzsche’s playbook, “Why does anything matter?” with a background of family drama and the minutia of daily life.
Stephanie Hsu as Joy Wang / Jobu Tupaki
Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) is a busy mother and wife who doesn’t make time to focus meaningfully on her husband, Waymond, and daughter, Joy. Evelyn has succumbed to the pressure of her daily chores and clerical busywork, making her functionally absent from her family life. Before too long, Evelyn is revealed to be only one Evelyn of many, the “Alpha” version of Evelyn was in fact a brilliant scientist who discovered a way to jump between universes. The Alpha version of Joy was pushed too hard to explore the many other universes, and has now “seen too much”, to the point that her desires and behaviour are beyond any comprehension or understanding.
Ke Huy Quan as Waymond Wang
Many people have said that they found this movie good, but also strange or that the plot was confusing. I feel like the movie is predominantly an exploration of nihilism and absurd thinking, and the plot serves mainly to present a scenario to an audience that provokes thought about those themes. During the film, “why does anything matter?” is posed in various ways, through dialogue, metaphorical visuals, and the overarching plot. The absurdity of applying meaning to a chaotic world is also examined with great use of special effects to drive the point home. I would actually say this is one the rare films these days that uses extensive visual special effects to enhance the plot, as opposed to creating a big lights show as compensation for a lack of originality or intrigue.
Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Quan Wang
You could probably watch this film and enjoy it for an entertaining couple of hours of action, brilliant visuals and genuinely likable characters. I found those aspects of the film to be great, but I took more enjoyment from the exploration of the deeper questions about meaning in the world. I think the way both The Matrix and Everything Everywhere avoid laying the philosophy on too thick is what makes these movies great explorations of their chosen topic, they give you just enough to ignite your mind, but they avoid spelling out the take home message, therefore giving you something to think about the next day. When you can make that viewing experience enjoyable for its’ own sake, you’ve made a great movie.