It’s rare to see a film that touches so many nerves as Everything Everywhere All at Once. The
multiverse exploring masterpiece from Swiss Army Man directors, Daniel Kwan and Daniel
Scheinert (known as the Daniels) left me sobbing my heart out, face buried deep in my partner’s
I was going to say the nerves it touched were niche, as the film explores themes of generational
trauma and immigrant identity, alongside more common themes like queerness, love, loss and
nihilism. But things like generational trauma and immigrant identity aren’t niche to those who live
through them, it’s just a niche subject matter for films to tackle. As a daughter of an Indian
immigrant, I found it moving in a way I’d never felt before. Generational trauma exists in our
circles on a scale that I’ve rarely seen put to film. It’s a very common feeling for immigrants/1st
and 2nd gen immigrants from all over, and although white-born westerners experience
generational trauma too, it’s not as socially wide as it is in the rest of the world.
The similarities between a lot of Asian cultures are shocking. In China, India, and Pakistan,
LGBTQ people are a taboo, racism is common and girls are often seen as lesser, or burdens
when born. An early scene shows the main character Evelyn (a career-best Michelle Yeoh)
being born and handed to her father, with the doctor saying “sorry it’s a girl” which reminded me
of a very similar story my own mother told me about her birth. Although centering on a Chinese
American family, its similarities in dynamics and conversations were felt heavily in me.
The conservatism, unacceptance, fear, anger, and frustration are passed on to the children.
Breaking that cycle has been helped by Gen Z’s internet access which lets them see the world
outside their parents view, but our parents didn’t have that luxury. So the younger generations
are in a constant battle with their family on what makes a happy upbringing. Evelyn, throughout
the film, is almost ashamed of her daughter being a lesbian, afraid to tell her visiting father about
it as she already has a strained relationship with him for reasons I won’t spoil. She also
constantly comments on her daughter’s weight and can’t seem to crack through the
awkwardness and sadness this instills in their relationship. Because this is how she was talked
to as a child. She knows it’s wrong, but she just has it ingrained in her, it’s like an automatic
response that Yeoh’s subtle facial expressions show her battling with.
This is what I’ve seen in my own Indian family, in my relationship with my own mum. I love her to
bits but the difference in our worlds is like night and day. She won’t mind me saying that some of
the modernity confuses her. Some of my own life choices confuse her too. Which I understand
because she was raised differently at a different time and I appreciate that she accepts me
even if she doesn’t understand. But she also won’t mind me saying that it’s not always been
easy the way we communicate. Because again, we are from different worlds with different
“rules”. Everything’s more open now, and it wasn’t back then. I grew up around homophobia and
racism, in and outside of my family. I grew up seeing the results of my Indian grandparents’ form
of upbringing and my parents raised me completely differently from how they were raised. I still see
the effects of it in my mum, aunties and uncles sometimes and I see how hard it must be to
break out of that.
These experiences are so common in immigrant societies that I had three people (a Cypriot, a
Pakistani and an African) all reply to my Instagram review, saying how accurate and touching
this theme of the film was. I think everyone will enjoy it and find something to love in the film but
there’s something so special about how only immigrants (and children of) will feel watching this.
To have a piece of media so in tune with that experience was brain-melting for me, it was like
someone held a camera up at my family dynamics. I can’t express how much that
representation means to me. It’s an incredibly special and beautiful film, and all of this is just
one theme too. The rest of it is mind-blowing on a technical and spiritual level that I don’t have
the word count to even put down here. The kung fu, the comedy, the acting, writing, direction, art
direction, editing, philosophy, everything is just masterful.
If it’s still on near you, go watch Everything Everywhere All at Once. No matter where you’re
from, you’ll be in for a treat.