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5 Screenwriting Takeaways: 'Everything Everywhere All At Once'

April 11, 2022
4 min read time

At first glance, the premise of Everything Everywhere All At Once is simple. Nothing is more certain in life than death and taxes, and right, now unpaid taxes are coming for Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh). While working herself silly at her failing laundromat it seems that death could just as easily also be chasing her, she must also face a father who constantly needs her in his not so golden years. Her responsibilities seem unbearable until she discovers that she is just one Evelyn amongst thousands in the multiverse. Now, she has to face her IRS audit and if she’s the best Evelyn to save the world.

1. The power of genre.  Co-writer and co-director Daniel Kwan has stated that the filmmakers wanted to use the multiverse to stare into the chaos that society is feeling as a whole, while breaking filmic conventions. While the pace and editing of the film are phenomenal and groundbreaking, it also owes much to films that have come before it. The Matrix and 2001: A Space Odyssey help flesh out each individual multiverse that has a distinct look and feel. Not to mention that when your film stars Michelle Yeoh, whose biggest claim to fame is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, epic fight sequences are to be expected, and this film is no exception.

2. All the Evelyns.  When Evelyn’s husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) tells her: “There’s great evil spreading throughout the many verses and you may be our only chance of stopping it.” Evelyn has to respond to her call to action, but it’s not easy. She often tells everyone she is too busy for them (open to the chaos that wants to overtake her life). Waymond insists: “Every rejection, every disappointment, has led you here to this moment. Don’t let anything distract you from it.” But when Evelyn is finally able to focus enough (and believe in the more confident version of Waymond who insists on how much they need her) she, too, is able to see and experience life as other Evelyns, tempted to live life as a famous Evelyn who seemingly has it all. But, like it or not, this Evelyn will have to fight chaos no matter what. Yeoh is at the top of her game here. It feels as if, much like Evelyn, the sum of her life has brought her to this moment to play Evelyn, and it’s a magnificent thing to experience. 

3. Generational trauma & the violence trope. The Daniels (Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) have stated that if they made an action movie, they wanted to ensure that the message was not 'violence is the answer to problems.' That choosing peace can get you just as far. There is a lovely sequence on a set of stairs in the IRS facility in Simi Valley that illustrates exactly this point. The filmmakers use human moments that ground the story despite the constant chaos surrounding the core narrative, such as Evelyn holding onto a moment when her father said goodbye for her entire life. Feeling like he never fought for her, Evelyn is overly hard on her daughter, hoping to not lose her, but simultaneously pushing her away. 

4. The power of family.  Ultimately, Everything Everywhere is about family. It’s about the mistakes we make that are more damaging than we know. It’s about the everyday slights that hurt the people we love the most. But it’s also about the realization that family is more important than anything anywhere else in any multiverse if we can just silence the chaos to realize it. 

5. The return of Ke Huy Quan.  Complimenting Yeoh’s unforgettable performance is Ke Huy Quan, best known as the child actor starring in Goonies and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Quan transitioned to a life behind the camera when he felt limited opportunities for Asian actors did not make for a sustainable life, but after seeing Crazy Rich Asians, he longed to act again. Quan as Waymond Wang provides so much heart to the film. He is Evelyn’s "stupid husband," but he’s also her greatest love. The man with a smile, flowers and googly eyes at the ready for the worst moments of life. This film is just as much Quan’s triumph as it is Yeoh’s, and if we are lucky, we will get many, many more Quan starring vehicles.  

Final Takeaway: The Daniels hope that viewers take away from the final sequence something they call an ‘empathy fight,’ that their movie is about a mom that needed the multiverse to survive real life and that peace always wins over violence. 

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