Everything Everywhere All At Once cleaned up at the Oscars–and I know why

Everything Everywhere All At Once won a slew of awards this year.

I loved the blockbuster film Everything Everywhere All at Once. The plot focuses on a Chinese-American couple, Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) and her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), who are running the family laundromat and preparing for a Chinese New Year party while stressing about an audit of their business by the IRS. Meanwhile, they are in conflict over their relationship with their daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) and her girlfriend Becky (Tallie Medel), as the older generation loves their child but is resistant to embracing their child’s queer identity.

This seems like a somewhat simple plot, but the movie has garnered a lot of attention for how creative, absurd, and exciting it is, and all of these plots overlap with wild scenes of time travel into a multiverse, where characters’ identities shift as well.

Right off the bat, the movie shed some light on the stigma surrounding LGTBQ identity among traditional, older Chinese family members. Joy wants to introduce her partner to her grandpa at the Chinese New Year party but her mom Everlyn is skeptical about doing so and ends up introducing Becky as a “good friend” of Joy’s instead. In another scene, Everlyn can be seen misgendering Becky, using “he” instead of “she.” 

Even though on the outside Evelyn seems to be supporting her daughter dating a girl, her actions and words say otherwise. When Joy tries to talk to her about letting Becky come to the New Year party, Everlyn avoids the topic and changes the discussion, brushing off what Joy is trying to say. 

The lack of understanding and seeking acceptance are common themes that can be seen throughout the movie. The film also spotlights intergenerational trauma. In simple terms, this refers to trauma that was inflicted on one generation and then is passed down to the next, and sometimes the next after that, causing cycles of harm. 

In the movie we can learn about Evelyn’s past, and that her father (Gong Gong) didn’t approve of her and Waymond’s marriage which resulted in Evelyn running away from home and starting a new life with her husband in their laundromat. She then passes her trauma to Joy, judging her daughter with her own opinion instead of listening and accepting who her daughter is. However, the film adds creativity and spice to dealing with this trauma, as Evenlyn, her husband, and her daughter travel through a multiverse to deal with these issues. In one universe, Evelyn has paid her taxes; in another, she is fighting her daughter in a Kung Fu universe; and in another, she is in a gay relationship with her IRS auditor (in the famed “hot dog fingers” universe). The family’s travels through the multiverse are wild, scary, poignant, and also sad, but lead to resolution.

The film also holds significant value for the Asian community since it is one of the few films in Hollywood with a majority Asian cast. In fact, Asian and Pacific Islanders account for less than 6% of the speaking role in films, and out of that, only roughly 4% are the lead or co-lead, according to the USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.

As a person of Asian descent, I loved following this family’s serious struggles and I also loved that the film was creative, dramatic, and even absurd. Everything Everywhere All At Once also recently swept up at awards ceremonies, showing others agreed. 

At the Critics Choice Awards, it led the nominations with 14 nominations and won five awards, including Best Director for Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Best Supporting Actor for Ke Huy Quan, and Best Picture Award. 

Everything Everywhere At All Once received six Golden Globe nominations; Michelle Yeoh won Best Actress in a musical or comedy motion picture and Ke Huy Quan won Best Supporting Actor. 

At the Oscars last week, Michelle Yeoh was the first Asian American woman in history to win the Best Actress award; Ke Huy Quan won Best Supporting Actor, and Jamie Lee Curtis won Best Supporting Actress. The film also won Best Picture for 2022.

All that hype can’t be for nothing. If you haven’t seen it yet, you really should check it out!