‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ isn’t that confusing

*spoiler alert*

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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Enya and my magical childhood imagination

It sounds like I grew up listening to her songs. I didn’t. The only ones I had stumbled into were Orinoco Flow and Only Time, her most famous works (and arguably her more overrated). Every person who had access to mass media in the 90’s definitely had heard of both.

I started to listen more of her works when I was in high school. Despite the relatively late exposure, I found myself feeling nostalgic.

Somehow, her songs remind me of my childhood imagination, a magical universe where exciting, otherworldly adventures fill my daily lives and spiritual contentment await me at every destination.

I know that’s a very vague description. But, that’s the best I can describe it briefly and concisely.

As I was a dumb child and teenager with stunted communication skills, I had difficulty in describing my imagination. I was pleasantly surprised to find songs which perfectly evoke it in musical forms, even though I never heard of them before.

It is possible my young self listened to her lesser known songs and the memories are stuck in the subconscious. But, I doubt that. It is not the individual song’s melody which triggers the nostalgia, it is her overall style.

I tried listening to other New Age musicians. But, none of them triggers the same emotion.

Clannad (Enya’s family’s band, in where she was a member for one album), Andreas Vollenweider and Paul Winter also make great New Age works. But, theirs are too “folksy”.

Instead of depicting the otherworldliness, they seem to depict the perspectives of laymen who long for it; they are more “down-to-earth”. It does not help that they are more musically eclectic; Clannad originally performed Irish folk music exclusively while Winter and Vollenweider also do Jazz and European Classical, respectively.

I also find ethnic music -wherever it is from- New Agey as well. But, it is either “down-to-earth” like Clannad, Winter and Vollenweider’s or evoking mythological imagery associated with said cultures.

Religious music -not the pop kind- can also be New Agey and, like Enya’s, it also evokes otherworldly imagery in my head. But, as expected, the otherwordliness is religious in nature; instead of making me feel excited about adventures, it only reminds me to not be hedonistic 24/7.

Enigma is the worst so far. The music reminds me of the people who are inspired by every single inspirational quote and story they encounter. You know, self-righteous, pseudo-spiritual swines whose brainpower is comparable to the one of beached jellyfish.

They all deal with metaphysical themes. But, Enya is the only one whose works reignite my childhood imagination..

I wonder whether music theory can explain it. It may or may not able to. But, I do have a hypothesis: her music is meant to evoke imaginations like my childhood one.

Not only that I find Occam’s razor useful at times, it is also conceited to believe I am the only one who has such childhood imagination. It is possible that her works are intentionally created to be enjoyed by people like me. It is even more possible that she is one of those people.

Obviously, that’s just a rough guess. I cannot be certain about the nature of her imagination and her intention as a musician. But, it is certainly way better than framing my seemingly-inexplicable nostalgia of Enya’s music as a haunting mystery of the universe.

Yes, it feels nice to do so. But, it is intellectually dishonest and conceited.






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