I waited until Saturday to watch “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the film that won seven Oscars on Sunday, including best picture and three of the four acting prizes, after hearing raving reviews for over a year. I knew it would resonate with me, not because I questioned the hype.
I wasn’t really prepared for that.
A Chinese immigrant named Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) struggles to connect with her gay daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) and her loving but distant husband Waymond in the drama “Everything Everywhere” (Ke Huy Quan). A metaphor for Joy’s ingrained misery brought on by years of unresolved intergenerational trauma, she is forced to vanquish an evil power inhabiting her daughter before being thrown into an other realm.
After finally gathering the mental fortitude to watch, I can affirm that “Everything Everywhere” is deserving of its reputation as the best film of the year. Few films have ever moved me to tears, laughter, smiles, and calls to my mother all inside 2 hours and 19 minutes. It features entertaining martial arts combat, heartbreaking family drama, and comic relief in a cosmically insane narrative.
That is why, despite all odds, “Everything Everywhere” managed to win huge. But more importantly, it serves as a reassuring reminder that Asian representation doesn’t always need tired tropes or token diversity in order to be deserving of an Oscar.
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Asian Americans experienced a significant turning point in Hollywood history after decades of inadequate, biassed, and stereotyped representations of my culture.
One of the movie’s stars, Harry Shum Jr., honoured his Asian roots on the red carpet by wearing an avant-garde, custom “East meets West” tuxedo. In order to “give an homage to (her) roots,” Hong Chau, who was nominated for her role in “The Whale,” attached a Mandarin collar to her handmade Prada dress.
East Asian Americans witnessed a much-anticipated and well-deserved victory from Quan, 51, who became only the second Asian actor to win best supporting actor since Haing S. Ngor for “The Killing Fields” in 1984. South Asian Americans witnessed many “firsts” with “RRR” (best song) and “The Elephant Whisperers” (best documentary short).
Yeoh, 60, a beloved industry veteran, won one of the highest prizes of the evening and became the second woman of colour to win best actress in the 95-year history of the ceremony (Halle Berry for “Monster’s Ball” in 2001).
The meaning of “Everything Everywhere All At Once” for me
Words cannot express how happy I am to see “Everything Everywhere,” an authentically Asian American story with an Asian American cast, honoured by the most esteemed organisation in the entertainment sector, currently led by an Asian president, Janet Yang.
The core of the movie is a recognisable and nostalgic story: I recognise parts of Joy, an unhappy 20-something who is struggling with the inherent, intergenerational trauma that comes with being an American of second generation. Trauma with a lowercase “t” is present when you feel your grandparents’ disappointment that you don’t speak their language well; when you want to assimilate as an Asian American without denying your heritage; when you feel guilty about the sacrifices your parents made but worry that you won’t live up to their expectations.
But I also identify with Evelyn, the grandmother. I also found it difficult to articulate and express my emotions. … a…………………………………………………
The movie is challenging to see, but in the greatest ways. I liked how it bravely tackled taboo subjects like homosexual relationships in Asian cultures and Waymond’s good masculinity. By pushing limits, “Everything Everywhere” successfully conveyed the complications of intergenerational healing in many immigrant households.
“Everything Everywhere” captured my reality despite the glitz of special effects and the fantastical impossibilities of a multiverse: it was an honest account of a second-generation Chinese American girl who is still coming to terms with being “stubborn, aimless, and a mess.”