There’s no easy way to sum up the Oscar favorite Everything everywhere at once.
It begins with the premise that a Chinese-American immigrant named Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) must enter the multiverse to stop an alternate version of her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) from destroying her world. Evelyn’s husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) joins the party.
The film is two hours of mayhem punctuated by absurd humor and non-stop action sequences, followed by a series of emotional revelations about Evelyn, Joy, Waymond and the human condition. without much warning, EEAAO becomes a representation of how someone – Joy – can be brought back from the edge of his existence. Suddenly, the viewer is confronted with a version of his own emotional pain as the film’s fantastical scenes give way to something far better: an unexpected but masterful mental health story.
There’s Joy’s Depression, a powerful current beneath her easygoing facade. It’s the endless heartbreak Evelyn feels after her father’s rejection. The grueling demands of running a small business as an immigrant have overwhelmed Evelyn’s life – and her ability to admire the beauty of everyday life. Though Waymond may be supernaturally kind, he’s not immune to the nagging loneliness of feeling that the rift in his marriage is beyond repair. In the Alphaverse, Joy’s alternate persona, Jobu, wonders if there is a way to end all the pain; the nihilism that afflicts them is just too much to bear.
Where to watch “Everything, Everywhere at Once”?
Instead of uttering the words hopelessness and suicide, Jobu creates an “Everything Bagel” which is literally a bagel with all experiences and emotions. Taken at once, the totality of human experience makes life meaningless. The emptiness in the middle of this bagel is Jobu’s answer to suffering.
“The bagel is where we finally find peace,” says Jobu Evelyn at the film’s climax. In Evelyn’s universe, a parallel conversation with her daughter involves Joy confessing, “I’m tired. I don’t want to get hurt anymore.”
Lorissa Carin, a 22-year-old Filipino-American at San Francisco State University, sat in awe as she watched EEAAO, which she did more than once. Carin, who suffers from depression and suicidal thoughts and whose mother is an immigrant from the Philippines, saw the film as a powerful glimpse into her own life and struggles. In fact, there are almost too many moments like this to count.
In Joy’s and Evelyn’s strained relationship, Carin recognized her own longing to connect with her mother in ways that were complicated by the limitations of language, culture, and generational differences.
Although Jobu is initially positioned as the film’s Big Bad because of her nihilism threatening human existence, Evelyn realizes that she needs to be embraced, not destroyed. Carin found this moving as someone who worried her suicidal thoughts were “monstrous.”
When Jobu and Evelyn find themselves transformed into rocks and perched on the edge of a cliff in a universe where humanity does not exist, Carin realized the stillness and unjudgmental connection she longs for in moments of sadness, uncertainty and depression.
In an Asian-American group telemedicine therapy session that Carin attended, she and the other members spoke at length about the scene where Jobu drifts off into the void of Everything Bagel, but Evelyn tries to stop her decay. They each imagined whose hand might be on their shoulder in a moment of crisis.
“It was very healing to actually visualize that scene in my life because it shows suicide, it shows nihilism, but it also shows connection and a desire for connection,” says Carin, who is writing her thesis on suicide prevention among Filipino-American youth in the wake of the pandemic.
Filmmaking duo Daniels declined to speak to Mashable about portraying depression and suicidal thoughts EEAAO, but the film arguably makes his values clear when it comes to mental health. As Evelyn attempts to save Jobu and, in turn, Joy, she realizes how important an authentic, loving connection is to her daughter’s sanity — and her own well-being.
First of all, Evelyn wants a crisp resolution. Evelyn confidently tells her father, who is visiting from China, that Joy has a girlfriend, perhaps thinking that when she finally reveals the truth, Joy will finally be convinced that her mother sees her pain and worth. But Joy refuses an easy reconciliation, forcing Evelyn to confront the complexities of their relationship. Yes, Evelyn may be disappointed in her daughter’s tattoo and the fact that she never calls, and yes, sometimes life feels pointless, but there’s a more important truth.
“I still want to be somewhere with you,” says Evelyn. “I will always, always want to be here with you.”
After a few punches, Joy falls into a hug with her mother. In the alternate universe where Evelyn tries to save Jobu from the bagel’s vortex, Jobu’s hand emerges from the darkness and Evelyn grabs it to pull it out of the void.
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Brett Wean, director of writing and entertainment outreach at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, says the film offers important insights amid the action and absurdity.
Though it would be a mistake to prescriptively interpret the film, Wean says the overarching message reflects what mental health professionals know to be true: life can be stressful and overwhelming, and kindness and genuine connection can be a healing balm for emotional ones be pain and isolation.
“It’s the story that life is messy and our connections with other people make us whole and give us balance and ultimately that makes things okay and that’s where the true meaning of our lives comes from,” says Wean.
Wean says turning to a loved one for a caring, direct conversation about mental health or suicide(Opens in a new tab) may feel awkward or awkward at first but may be all that is needed to connect them to help. At the same time, Wean says the film should not be read as an indictment of those who have lost a loved one to suicide. While it is helpful to know the risk factors and warning signs(Opens in a new tab)Wean says survivors of suicide losses should never blame themselves if they overlook these signs, if their loved ones didn’t show them, or if they were unable to connect with the person who was struggling.
However, through the lens of Joy’s return from the abyss, the film helps dispel the myth that once someone has suicidal thoughts, they cannot heal or recover from those feelings.
“The big idea here is that suicide is never a matter of fate or preordained or someone’s destiny,” says Wean.
Carin says Evelyn’s explanation that she would still choose to be with Joy even if she could be anywhere in the multiverse helped her solidify and embrace the idea of ”being nowhere but here.” Staying in the present moment and not getting bogged down in unrealistically high expectations of who she might become has helped Carin dispel the fatalism and nihilism that shows with her depression.
“The philosophy right now is to do things for love, which was inspired by the communities and people around me who have shown me love,” says Carin.
If you are having thoughts of suicide or are going through a mental crisis, please speak to someone. You can reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988; the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860; or the Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. Text “START” to the crisis text line at 741-741. Contact the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI, Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET, or by email [email protected]. If you don’t like the phone, consider using the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Chat at crisischat.org(Opens in a new tab). Here is a List of international sources(Opens in a new tab).