Everything Everywhere All At Once is a 2022 film written and directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. The film is centred on a woman struggling with her business and family who suddenly finds herself in the middle of a multiversal war. The film is marked under the genre of science fiction and fantasy, but it is far more than what it appears to be. The film stars Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, and Jamie Lee Curtis, to name a few. You have to give this one a watch. Here’s the plot and the ending of Everything Everywhere All At Once explained; spoilers ahead.
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Where To Watch?
To find where to stream any movie or series based on your country, use This Is Barry’s Where To Watch.
Oh, and if this article doesn’t answer all of your questions, drop me a comment or an FB chat message, and I’ll get you the answer. You can find other film explanations using the search option on top of the site.
Here are links to the key aspects of the movie:
Everything Everywhere All At Once: Why is it so good?
The film is not just some good guy vs bad guy fantasy. It’s a massive stunning metaphor for how parents can make kids feel trapped their entire lives and what it takes to become free and happy.
Many viewers went in expecting a complicated Science Fiction film that shared a lot of similar elements with MCU’s Multiverse Of Madness. While Everything Everywhere All At Once delivers on the multiverse complexity like a boss, it merely uses those elements to drive a point home – breaking the chain of toxic control over your kids. Let’s discuss this in detail. But first…
Everything Everywhere All At Once: Plot Explained | Literal
The film sees the central character, Evelyn, living a stressful life where she handles a laundromat being audited by the IRS. In the IRS building, Evelyn’s husband, Waymond, is remotely controlled by an alpha-Waymond from a parallel universe and gives Evelyn a device to jump into the minds of Evelyn of other realities. When Evelyn does so, all hell breaks loose as forces from the alpha-verse begin attacking Evelyn.
We learn that an evil force named Jobu Tupaki, Evelyn’s daughter, Joy, from the alpha-verse, is looking to destroy everything. Jobu lost her mind because alpha-Evelyn pushed her too hard to jump between universes. Evelyn from the prime universe is the only one who can stop her because this Evelyn is living the worst version of herself in the entire multiverse. Therefore she can draw her strengths from a multitude of universes to become a force more mighty than Jobu Tupaki.
And so the film sees Evelyn draw from a variety of hilarious realities until she becomes just like Jobu – someone who doesn’t care anymore. Finally, Waymond talks sense into Evelyn that the only way to fight is with kindness. Everyone aids Evelyn in saving Jobu from destroying herself by walking into a void.
Now, I’d usually go through the rules of the multiversal jumps, count the multiverses we see in the film and walk through the plot explaining the little details. But the essence of this film is not a literal multiversal war; the visuals in the movie only represent the chaos unfolding inside Evelyn’s mind. This is why we’ll discuss the details of the plot metaphorically.
Everything Everywhere All At Once: Plot Explained | The Metaphor
What is it about? what is the meaning?
Asians, including the Indian subcontinent, can relate to the film a lot more because of the nature of people’s relationships with their parents. Unlike the west, many households in Asia have youngsters staying at home well beyond college or forever in the form of a joint family with multiple siblings, spouses, and kids. As a result, parents expect their adult kids to adhere to their way of life.
While most families find a balance, some parent relationships become toxic, where parents have unreasonable expectations that the children endlessly try to fulfil well into their own parenthood. When compounded with parents’ relatives and the community they’re part of, this toxicity could lead to heaps of stress for both sides.
It’s important to understand that these parents are honestly trying and do only what is best for their adult kids and go out of their way to help, but they don’t know when to stop. Adults are equally to blame for not establishing healthy boundaries with their parents.
Who is Evelyn? What’s her story?
Evelyn is a Chinese woman who grew up in a loving but conservative family. When she fell in love with Waymond, her father (Gong Gong) was disapproving of her choice. She left for America with Waymond, and they built a modest life for themselves. Eventually, they had a daughter, Joy. Though years have passed, Evelyn has always sought her father’s approval for the life she leads. Constantly seeing her life through her father’s eyes has altered Evelyn’s perception of her own life.
What’s Joy’s Story?
It would be fair to assume that Evelyn has been tough on Joy through her growing years. Joy feels the pressure of making her mother proud but is unable to live up to her expectations. Her being gay adds to that stress. Joy is evaluating her own life through the eyes of her mother. While on the surface, Evelyn seems okay with Joy’s life, she is still disapproving of it. Now here’s the tricky bit. Evelyn disapproves not because of what she alone feels about Joy but because of what her father might think about it.
What is Waymond’s story? Why the divorce?
Waymond loves Evelyn very much. He’s a simple man who is content with his life as long as he has his family. His way of fighting the world has been with kindness, no matter how rude someone is to him. However, Evelyn sees this as his weakness and, over the years, develops a slight disdain for him. This, again, is the projection of her father’s viewpoint. Waymond knows Evelyn has lost love for him, and he is looking for a divorce. It’s fair to assume that he has been trying his best over the years but now believes Evelyn’s unhappiness is his fault.
What does Evelyn really want? What is the multiverse really about?
The multiversal events are all inside Evelyn’s head. This is the war inside her mind which is visualized for the audience in the film.
Evelyn believes that based on all the choices she has made in her life, she’s currently living the worst possible outcomes where she’s terribly unsuccessful at various things. Evelyn considers herself a professional singer, novelist, chef, teacher, singing coach, Watsu technician, etc. How do we know this? The receipts that she’s submitted to the IRS are all of her aspirations. Many of Evelyn’s lives we see in the parallel universes also correspond to her ambitions. Deep down, Evelyn also feels that if she had not left with Waymond, she might have had a better life, one where she’s a Kung Fu master and an actress, basically Michelle Yeoh!
At the IRS building, Evelyn first begins interacting with alpha-Waymond. During the meeting, Deirdre warns Evelyn about fraud and gross negligence. Everything is crumbling around her, and this is when the chaos starts inside Evelyn’s mind. While we’re shown the multiversal war breaking out at the IRS building, the parallel universes have already been playing out in Evelyn’s mind.
The movie shows a series of fight sequences, but none of that is actually happening. In real life, Evelyn’s family returns with homework on their taxes which they need to resubmit by 6:00PM.
If the multiverse is only in Evelyn’s mind, what is the alpha-verse about?
In Everything Everywhere, we’re told that the alpha-verse is the universe that discovered Verse Jumping. However, the alpha-verse merely represents the root cause of Evelyn’s problems.
In the alpha-verse, Evelyn pushed her daughter to the point of breaking. This is synonymous with Evelyn’s pressure on her daughter Joy based on what she thinks is best for her.
Evelyn’s father from the alpha-verse is the leader, which signifies that for Evelyn, her father is the source of her dissatisfaction with her life.
Deep down, Evelyn knows her husband is supportive, but she reimagines alpha-Waymond as a charismatic saviour who can beat up IRS security with a fanny pack!
If none of it is real, who is Jobu Tupaki?
Joy is the central element of Everything Everywhere All At Once. Jobu Tupaki represents Joy, who is hurting because of her strained relationship with her mother. Jobu is the path of self-destruction that Joy is on. Jobu later discloses that she was looking to end herself, and the only reason she was looking for Evelyn was in the hope that Evelyn would see things from her perspective. In effect, Joy is seeking her mother’s unconditional love. This doesn’t mean Joy is looking to commit suicide, but she has been wrecking her life by making unhealthy decisions. But left on this path, Joy could end up committing suicide.
Everything Everywhere All At Once Explained: What is the bagel? What does the bagel mean?
Jobu says she took all her hopes, dreams and everything she cared for and put it on a bagel that collapsed like a black hole. This is a metaphor for what Joy has been doing to herself. The bagel represents the sum total of her life that she feels amounts to nothing.
Unfortunately, Evelyn has been going through so much that she is also on the verge of giving up. She, too, feels her life amounts to nothing and heads down the path of self-destruction. All of Evelyn’s reckless actions and being mean to people in the other universes represent how she is sabotaging her relationships with friends and family.
In real life, she ignores her tax mandates, gets drunk and gladly signs the divorce papers and smashes up her laundromat when Deirdre has come to seal the place. This leads to Evelyn’s arrest.
While Joy was hoping that her mother might be the one to tell her, “Life’s not that bad, and there is a way to make it through the chaos”, Evelyn is on her own path of self-destruction.
How does Waymond save the day?
Waymond says that one has to be kind, especially when they don’t know what’s going on. He also mentions that kindness has been his way of fighting. While we are shown Waymond talking about this in a bunch of universes, in real life, Evelyn realizes the importance of Waymond’s way of kindness in her life.
In real life, Waymond manages to talk to Deirdre and convince her not to arrest Evelyn and that her negligence and violent behaviour were his fault because he served her divorce notice. Deirdre understands because she recollects the time she was served notice by her husband and how she reacted violently too.
For the first time in a long time, Evelyn feels thankful and hugs Waymond. She reciprocates love and kindness. She understands that no matter how difficult something appears, there is always a way to get around the problem.
“Even in a stupid, stupid universe where we have hot dogs for fingers, we’d get very good with our feet“. While this sausage universe is completely insane, it shows that we can always overcome our insanely complicated hurdles. This also represents the kindness Evelyn shows to Deirdre and tells her that she is not unlovable. Deirdre gives Evelyn another chance to get her paperwork together and return.
The stairway fight scene and its meaning
This fight sequence is an elaborate analogy for Evelyn now choosing to fight with kindness which works far better than fury. This sequence shows that Evelyn will go on to become a better person and help people along the way in life.
But as Jobu mentions, all of this is short-lived as things have a way of turning back to being nasty. This is because every problem must be solved at its root; merely treating the symptom will never be enough. Which is why…
Everything Everywhere All At Once Explained: Evelyn faces Gong Gong
The perpetuating chain of events can only be broken if the change starts from the top. Gong Gong is disgusted by Evelyn’s reckless actions, but she stands up to him and says she is perfectly fine if her father can’t be proud of her. And that despite her greatest fear that Joy shouldn’t turn out like her, that’s precisely what has happened. She wants to break the chain now and save her daughter. She stands proudly and introduces Becky as her daughter’s girlfriend.
Alpha Gong Gong physically restraining Evelyn from going to Jobu and stopping her from walking into the black hole is a metaphor for Evelyn’s mental block created by her dire need for her father’s approval.
Letting Joy go …almost
Jobu’s fight with Evelyn represents Joy lashing out. Joy finds it great that her mother is figuring it all out. But she feels they are beyond a point of reconciliation. She thinks that her mother would be much happier elsewhere without bearing the weight of the person she is. Again, this is Joy seeing herself through the eyes of her mother. Even if she leaves her mother, it will never bring her peace. Evelyn once left her parents but could never find happiness because she constantly sought their approval.
But, to respect her daughter’s wishes, Evelyn says, “Okay”, and lets Joy go. But then she knows this is no different from what her father did. Out of sight, out of mind is never a good solution between parents and their kids.
Evelyn stops Joy with the help of family and friends
Everyone comes to Evelyn’s aid while trying to pull Jobu from the black hole. This is an analogy for the support Evelyn feels from the people around her.
Gong Gong, somehow, sees the errors in his ways and reconciles with his granddaughter’s girlfriend. His instant acceptance seems abrupt, but I believe it is shown this way for cinematic purposes.
Evelyn tells Joy that no matter how complicated the situation is or how little time they get together, she wants to be there for Joy. The two of them hug, finally breaking the cycle of the unhealthy parent-child relationship.
Everything Everywhere All At Once: Ending Explained
The ending of Everything Everywhere All At Once reveals that all the multiversal war we saw was the chaos inside Evelyn’s head. She has successfully reconciled with her father and daughter and has broken out of the otherwise toxic relationship.
Evelyn returns to the IRS building with redone documentation. This time, Joy has also joined to help with understanding the situation. The family has been driven to the place by Becky. Evelyn gives Waymond a big kiss to show him how grateful and happy she is.
As Deirdre runs them through the paperwork, she remarks that there is a significant improvement, and there is still some missing stuff. This time, too, Evelyn gets distracted. This time, it’s not because she’s overwhelmed with all her problems but because she’s overjoyed looking at her happy family.
What was real in the film, and which portions happened in Evelyn’s mind?
Everything fantastical with the multiverses involved was a metaphor for what Evelyn and Joy were going through. If we were to speculate on what actually happened, it would be as follows:
- Evelyn fell in love with Waymond, left China, and moved to America with him. Gong Gong disapproved of Evelyn’s choice.
- Evelyn and Waymond set up a laundromat business.
- Joy was born.
- While things were initially fine, over the years, Evelyn started doubting the choice of leaving with Waymond.
- Over time, Evelyn tried to satisfy her soul by trying her hands at other skills like singing, novel writing, cooking, teaching, coaching, etc. Nothing panned out to be anything more than a mere hobby. But she always fantasized that somewhere if things had gone differently, she’d be more successful.
- At some point time, Joy announces that she’s gay and is seeing a girl called Becky. While she’s accepted this, she’s not entirely okay with it.
- Gong Gong makes a trip for the Chinese New Year. Evelyn wants to impress him, as she’s still seeking his approval for her life. She doesn’t want Gong Gong to know that his granddaughter is seeing another woman.
- Waymond feels he is responsible for Evelyn’s unhappiness and wants a divorce.
- The IRS is auditing the laundromat, and in the afternoon, Evelyn, Waymond and Gong Gong go to the IRS office to submit the tax documents. Deirdre says that these documents are incorrect and might result in repossession. She gives them a chance to resubmit by 6:00PM that day.
At this moment, the movie starts representing the chaos in Evelyn’s mind as a multiversal war, but none of those fantastic science fiction elements are real. Let’s continue with the remaining events that are real.
- Evelyn finds out that Waymond wants a divorce.
- They go home.
- Evelyn doesn’t resubmit the tax documents on time; she has stopped caring. When Deirdre calls, she asks her to shut it and hangs up.
- Evelyn gets drunk at the party and signs the divorce papers.
- Deirdre shows up with an officer and authorizes the seizure of the business.
- Evelyn takes a baseball bat, breaks her window, and smashes a machine; she’s put in cuffs.
- Waymond talks to Deirdre; she empathizes with Evelyn and lets her go. Waymond clears the shattered glass.
- Evelyn realizes the kind and loving support her husband has always provided and how he is her knight in shining armour; she hugs him.
- Evelyn has a heart to heart talk with Deirdre and tells her that she is not unlovable.
- Evelyn faces her father and tells him she is fine, even if he is not proud of her. But she doesn’t want to repeat what he did with her daughter. She announces that Joy is gay and Becky is her girlfriend.
- Joy leaves, saying that they would be better off without each other.
- While Evelyn initially says okay, she realizes she’s only beginning a new cycle. So she stops Joy and states that no matter how hard things are, she wants to be there for her daughter. The two of them hug and reconcile.
- The next day, Becky drops Evelyn, Gong Gong, Waymond and Joy to the IRS office, and Deirdre says the documents are much better but still need some amendments.
- While Evelyn is distracted, she is now at peace with her family, her universe.
How do we know for sure the multiverse war is not real?
Simple, had the multiversal events been real and Evelyn and Waymond caused all that ruckus at the IRS office, they would have been jailed. Instead, we see Evelyn and her family returning to the office, and Deirdre reevaluates the paperwork.
There you have it, my interpretation of the movie. What did you think about the plot and ending of Everything Everywhere All At Once? Do leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Barry is a technologist who helps start-ups build successful products. His love for movies and production has led him to write his well-received film explanation and analysis articles to help everyone appreciate the films better. He’s regularly available for a chat conversation on his website and consults on storyboarding from time to time.
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