In Defense of the Weird

by Anjali Yedavalli

The author reflects on why Everything, Everywhere All at Once is a powerful statement of acceptance and genuine representation. 

The first time I had even heard of the film Everything, Everywhere, All at Once was through a film-loving friend who insisted I go with her to see it. I was quite skeptical upon hearing the rumors that it was an amalgamation of science fiction and indie filmmaking. I didn’t really understand the premise of it either: an action-packed “multiverse” movie. That kind of concept felt exclusive to Marvel, for whatever reason. I reluctantly agreed to go with her if not to quench my own curiosity. Now, almost a year later, I am more than grateful I was dragged to see this eccentric yet oddly gut-wrenching piece of art.

Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, is a science fiction adventure and exploration of the complex relationship between a Chinese immigrant mother and her estranged, queer daughter. One of the opening scenes features a distressing moment of Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh)

attempting to do her taxes above her failing laundromat that she runs with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). Downstairs, their daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is attempting to comfort her girlfriend, Becky, prepping her for the cultural and familial embarrassment that was sure to occur at the party that evening. Right away, the rawness of the family punched me through the screen. I had seen and felt moments like this before, in my own home and in the homes of my immigrant friends. There was something about the way the movie portrayed the strain put on love, especially between immigrants, and the constant need to live up to one’s fullest potential, that made my eyes well up not even halfway through. However, that was just the beginning. 

I should warn anyone wanting to see this movie after its remarkable Oscars sweep that it is a very weird movie. The R rating is not without reason, and some scenes are violent, odd, cruel, and visually overstimulating. There is a very potent science fiction element that enters the film in the first act, and once it enters, it does not stop. Evelyn is forced to be the multidimensional hero set to save the universe from an unstoppable, evil force, and her martial arts skills are outwardly put to the test. For some reason, though, the science fiction in the film never feels cheap or trite. 

If anything, it is a vessel for the true themes of the movie, the ones centering around familial relationships, the unexpected acceptance of nihilism as a means to pursue something more meaningful, and the importance of expressing love to those around you. Joy travels through dimensions to find the version of her mother that loves her unconditionally, a love she does not feel in her current state. Waymond,  despite feeling he is in a loveless marriage, loyally stays by Evelyn’s side, seeing her with utter devotion as the woman he first fell for. Both of them help Evelyn see how she can further appreciate the life she has around her as they discover the mundane is not so mundane after all.

The line that makes everyone from the movie blubber with tears (“In another life, I would’ve really liked just doing laundry and taxes with you”) is definitely an emotional moment, but for me, the most impactful scene is closer to the end of the film. Without spoiling any details, the reunion between Joy and Evelyn sent me into a third dimension, reflecting on all my own experiences. I related to Joy in just about every aspect, but I felt like I was learning more about my upbringing by empathizing with Evelyn as her story unfolds.

The 2023 Oscars made me happy, not just because a film in my native language of Telugu won Best Song (RRR), but because the eccentricity of Everything Everywhere All at Once was being unapologetically awarded for its unique take on age-old themes. Except, were they really that “age-old”? Having a Chinese-immigrant family being the center of such a film was refreshing and wonderful. The diversity present during the Oscars ceremony was, for once, satisfying for the Asian community. A story that could’ve been about my life won Best Picture, and the creativity that encapsulated it was applauded on end. I will defend the weird stories for all my life, as they are the stories that are silenced into oblivion, but often the stories with the most profound of impacts.

About Anjali Yedavalli

Anjali Yedavalli is a senior at Dunlap High School. Aside from taking academically rigorous classes, Anjali is involved in Speech Team (IHSA State qualifier in 2020), Student Council, UNICEF Club, the school plays, Jazz Choir, and is the Madrigal Queen of Dunlap’s Madrigal choir. Anjali’s main goal in the community is spreading passion for both academics and creativity. She has organized and led multiple public speaking workshops for middle school students and volunteered her time at North South Foundation, an organization dedicated to funding underprivileged children in India. In addition, she has joined and contributed to the Dunlap Young Musicians, a student-created music group that performs at senior homes on the holidays. She is also active in her Sunday School (Chinmaya Mission) and has helped write promotional songs and plays to help fundraise for the school. Last but not least, Anjali is a classically trained Bharatanatyam dancer of Mythili Dance Academy and has contributed to shows that have raised over $500k for a variety of charities.