I admit it is far from the most escapist film ever.
It is a comedic, psychological, absurdist, action-packed sci-fi film. Its story starts as one before splitting into two main branches that symbolically paralleling each other. It depicts existentialism, nihilism, generational gaps and identity crisis of children with foreign-born parents.
It is an undoubtedly highly-thematic, idiosyncratic and cerebral film that cannot put into any boxes. It is definitely not for everyone. In fact, I am surprised by its box office success.
But, is it really hard to follow?
In the beginning, we see our main protagonist Evelyn Wang struggling not only with the IRS’s audit of her laundromat business, but also with her strained relationships with her (supposedly) meek and naive husband, demanding father and queer daughter who seems detached from her ancestral heritage. The story starts branching out when someone from a parallel universe approaches her.
The film mainly focuses on two branches. One is a continuation of her earthly struggles story. The other one is about her fight against a powerful being – a parallel universe version of her daughter – who wants to destroy the multiverse, with the help of her husband’s parallel universe version.
There are lots to take in and I have barely scratched the surface by not detailing the minor but still consequential stories and discussing the film’s loaded themes. But, the plot is still clearly laid out for us.
In both main stories, you can easily determine the introduction, rise, climax, fall and resolution. Even though the parallel universes overlap with each other, we still can tell which is which. They are linearly and unambiguously depicted.
I have watched arthouse films where the lines between the past and present and between the physical and metaphysical worlds are blurred. I have watched arthouse films where the stories are partially or entirely conveyed through unexplained and seemingly-random imagery.
I have watched Shane Carruth’s Primer (hard to enjoy his works after knowing what he did), a time travel film where the characters speak with lots of technical jargons and create paradoxes so complex, you can’t discern the different timelines from each other.
There are many films with plots open to interpretations, where you are required to figure everything out yourself. But, Everything Everywhere All At Once is not one of them. If you simply pay attention, you would know what is going on.
Unfortunately, I have encountered something like this before.
I have heard people complaining how the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film has a very complex mystery, even though it is overwhelmed by the many action scenes and the explanations barely use any jargons.
While watching La La Land in the theatre with me, my sister overheard another filmgoer’s confusion about what those fantasy sequences are supposed to be, even though it is blatantly obvious they depict the characters’ fantasies.
Some Harry Potter fans complain the film adaptation of Half-Blood Prince is boring and has nothing going on, even though it clearly has things going on… in the forms of calm-paced and dialogue-driven scenes.
Basically, some people are unable to understand a story if it requires slightly more efforts and isn’t 99.9% escapist.
I don’t know if they are that stupid or just lazy. I hope it is the latter. I already have many reasons to be cynical.
The last thing I need is to have another one.
Oh, and one more thing:
If you watched the trailer and/or saw the weird poster that I use for this blogpost prior watching the film, why did you expect it to be “normal”?
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