As the Oscars have now made clear, Everything Everywhere All at Once is this year’s darling. That, of course, is not the same as being a great movie. In fact, much of this one is unpleasant. Whoever edited it is some kind of mad genius, mercilessly jerking and wrenching and snapping the viewer from place to place, from style to style, from peril to peace to peril.
Despite this, I watched to the end because of Michelle Yeoh, who has now been rewarded with an Oscar for her work. She is the beautiful heart of the movie playing a wife who wakes up to the fact that she has been wasting her life in a bitter marriage.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: We’ve seen this a million times. The “suddenly awakened woman” is a movie staple.
But what’s different this time is that our heroine (did I mention that Michelle Yeoh is perfection?) does not awake to find that her husband, her kids, her job, her religion, or her place in a patriarchal society are the problem. Rather, it is herself.
She does not love.
She has judged her husband a weakling, her father a bully, and her (of course, gay) daughter a drag. And each is, to some degree, just what she judges them to be. But so what? They are lovable—and in the case of her husband, very loving. It is she who has refused.
At what its makers probably think of as its deepest level, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a nihilist and absurdist plea just to be nice because nothing means anything (They hit the “nothing means anything” theme pretty hard).
But in Michelle Yeoh’s performance, the movie finds something much deeper: a resentful person who wakes up to her own lack of love. Her discovery that she has not loved her family—especially her husband—and her decision to remedy the situation by loving make the whole jagged ride worthwhile.
What a rare—and noble—film version of liberation, to become love in the heart of a family.