You might have seen people posting about it: the multiverse-hopping, sci-fi action film Everything Everywhere All At Once.
But why has the film captured our collective imagination?
When you strip back all the subplot and threads, it is — at its core — a very relatable story of a family struggling to do their taxes.
Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, the film explores an immigrant family and the inherent messiness, chaos, and opportunities that come with life when you’ve left your home country to start a new one.
There’s Evelyn Wang, the family’s matriarch, played by Michelle Yeoh, and Stephanie Hsu’s Joy Wang, her daughter, who is desperately trying to get her family to accept her girlfriend.
The film mixes the immigrant experience with the impending destruction of the multiverse, leading Evelyn and her husband, Waymond, to universe hop in an effort to save it.
A new kind of hero: Waymond Wang
Waymond is played by Ke Huy Quan, the 80s movie icon known for his roles as the lovable tinkerer Data in The Goonies and Harrison Ford’s sassy assistant in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Quan says he was happy on working behind the camera and stepped away from acting because he was difficult to be an Asian actor in Hollywood.
That all changed when he got the script for the film Everything Everywhere All at Once. The film marks about two decades since he last graced film screens, and is a joyous return for Quan.
“I remember reading the script for the first time and I remember it was a script that I wanted to read for many, many years, it just didn’t exist before,” Quan says.
He adds that a role like Waymond Wang would never have existed in the 80s, 90s or even the 2000s.
Quan stars as all of the Waymond Wangs across the multiverse, including a universe-jumping heroic version, and one who’s a sweet loving father and husband, struggling to give divorce papers to his wife.
“I certainly want to play all different kinds of characters that I didn’t get the opportunity to before,” Quan says.
Things started changing with the release of Asian-centered shows like Fresh off the Boat in 2015 and Kim’s Convenience. Then in 2018, Crazy Rich Asians was released, becoming a critical and commercial success, proving the vast appetite for and enjoyment of Asian-focused stories.
Still, in a film where literally anything is possible (including a universe where everyone has hotdog fingers) Everything Everywhere All At Once pulls out stories and threads that are multi-faceted and challenges conventional ideas, including that of masculinity.
Waymond, Quan says, is “a man that truly believes in love and empathy and kindness and respect for one another”.
‘Leans into the messiness and love’
The film also delves into themes of the generational divide and trauma, something encapsulated by the daughter Joy’s character. She also doubles as the film’s villain, Jobu Tupaki, who creates a blackhole-esque ‘Everything Bagel’ that threatens the existence of the multiverse.
“How many times have we had arguments with our parents saying, ‘You have no idea what it’s like to be me’, or, ‘I don’t understand you’ … you know?” Quan says.
“It’s so cool to see this brought to the forefront and yet you know it features a Chinese family so it’s something that I’m really grateful for.”
For Chinese-Australian food writer and cook Hetty McKinnon, the film cuts straight to the core of what it means to be a Chinese immigrant family.
“[The movie] just leans into the messiness of the love and bonds that run deep within Asian immigrant families.”
Ultimately, the film is unique in that it explores the sweeping dynamics of an immigrant family going through absurd situations with a lot of humor, heart, and relatability.
“I think the outrageousness of this movie kind of perfectly encapsulates the wild-yet-loving weirdness of Asian families,” Hetty says.
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