Everything Everywhere All at Once

Everything Everywhere All at Once

Tonight wasn’t my first time back in a movie theater since the plague hit, but it was the first time, maybe since even before March 2020, that I left the theater feeling something akin to religious awe, having momentarily remembered that cinemas are temples. Everything Everywhere All at Once did something I thought I was too jaded for anymore: it hit me straight in the meaning-maker, and on the ride home the city and the deep blue evening were haloed in coherence, strung tightly together by some sacred geometry. It slipped past my guard and fooled me into believing in boundless possibility, in a way I thought popcorn films no longer could. Put simply, I felt like a kid again.

I was fully primed to roll my eyes at a lot of it, though, especially the multiverse plot gimmick. But it turns out this movie leaps where most of its modern cousins fail because it remembers some basics: a movie’s plot gimmicks are only as good as its thematic architecture; action scenes are only as good as the emotion that propels them. By painting inside these lines, Daniels were able to give life to something that easily could have been stale. Even trying to avoid internet discourse, I’ve seen hot takes about this not needing its central gimmick or being the same as any other superhero film, etc., and of course there’s the expected contrarian backlash from folks who think Ambulance is the real cinema or whatever. I do share somewhat in the cynicism, especially at seeing this was co-produced by the Russo brothers; Is this the best we can hope for now, creativity and sincerity but only in the shadow of mass entertainment’s colossi?

But—Hideo Kojima reintroduced Kobo Abe’s parable of the rope and the stick to popular culture. With the stick, we attack and push things away. With the rope, we bind and draw things closer to us. For us tool-wielding monkeys, these two impulses represent the central tension of how we live. And I have to say that when Evelyn proudly declares to her meek and kindly husband “I’m learning to fight like you,” and Son Lux’s radiant score began to shimmer in greater and greater display, a heavy parcel of emotion was yoked out of me; this is perhaps a better, and certainly more economical, argument for the rope than even Kojima’s Death Stranding.

Storytelling, in my view, is about making sense of the world, and the world first makes sense—or doesn’t—through the lens of the people who attempt to raise us and love us. At heart I think the “tool” of storytelling is mankind’s truest rope, binding us together, mending things that have split apart. The gift of storytelling is to repair our ways of loving. Everything Everywhere All at Once reminded me that was still possible, even now with our lives in fragile thaw, while this young century stares down the barrel of a gun. I think that’s something special.

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