Exploring the Multiverse of Decisions: A Review of ‘Everything, Everywhere All at Once”

Counterfactual History

So in “Everything, Everywhere All at Once” rather than just playing on the single alternate universe in the movie ‘It’s a Wonderful life’ (Frank Capra 1946) premise being; what if I never existed, it takes it to the next stage of ‘what if’ I can exist in all the worlds at the same time and jump between them seeing, hearing and experiencing the consequences in each.

It’s A Wonderful Life – “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

This movie is a groundbreaker and does what Kaufman’s brilliant, but complex movie failed to do, which was to reach beyond the small audience who would understand his movie to the far wider general audience, that Capra’s movie eventually succeeded in doing. The goal of this kind of genre is to have the audience to initially leave the movie theatre a bit confused, but on the journey home will be thinking and dissecting the story and talking/writing about its meaning to their network of friends and family. I’m sure the director would want them/us to watch the movie multiple times to appreciate the effort put into the nuances/sub plots/visual cues/humour in the movie that all of us will miss on the first viewing.

This individual “counterfactual history” makes us all ‘the chosen one’ of our own story.

You could argue this is also about hyper-individualism as not only are we makers of our own destiny, but nothing else around you actually matters, or even exists as you created that universe, again a bit of the movie ‘The Matrix’ (1999) going on here, though for us, the power of the red pill wears off (further explanation later in the blog post) as the realities of having to earn a living in a Neoliberal monetarist world return on monday morning.

So the first 20 minutes was purposely hard to follow, but once the viewer starts to understand the structure of the story, the journey of the protagonist flows quite easily and logically (to my mind at least). The duality theme of the movie concerning good and evil reminded me of “The Night of the Hunter” (1955), directed by Charles Laughton, as well as Henry Fonda who played the lead role of Juror 8 in the movie “12 Angry Men” (1957), directed by Sidney Lumet. Both movies tackled good and evil, but each in a different manner. In “The Night of the Hunter” was about the deceit of evil hiding behind a mask of good, whereas “12 Angry Men” was about good triumphing over ignorance. “Everything, Everywhere All at Once” initially came from the same angle as “The Night of the Hunter” and then turned into “12 Angry Men”as the duality evolved, but ultimately the twist came from an unexpected source.

The Night of the Hunter – The choice between Love and Hate

However, overriding this was the conjuncture of the meaningless struggle through life. It reminded me of the philosophers Nietzsche (“God is dead”) and Proudhon (“Property is Theft”) and their struggles to convince those around them of their insight, with the consequence of both going mad. Often, the problem with seeing not just bigger picture, but further dismantling and then reforming a new societal construct (a blessing and a curse of many who live in a universe of dyslexic spatial perceptiveness, which includes breaking philosophical and political boundaries) is that others are seemingly blind to the world around them, living in a small place of worry and frustration, not seeing the real value of what they already have or have before them that’s within their grasp. This is often the dilemma set out in many time travel and parallel universe jumping movies for the main protagonist.

Though this is set out as a choice right at the beginning of the movie as to whether to follow the bizarre instructions on a list or ignore and remain ignorant, the point of intervention therefore had to be of when all the seemingly bad decisions she made up to that point, all come together in an approaching tsunami wave of destruction, that would potentially mean she would lose everything that she had worked for such as; family, marriage, business, and home, so what to do? Follow the instructions? A similar choice arose in the film “The Matrix”(directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski 1999), the choice being, taking the red pill to enlightenment or the blue, meaning you remain ignorant to the truth and therefore the worries and frustrations of daily living remain your reality, ignorant of the far wider and possibly worse truths of the larger world/universe.

Thus the power of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15-17 and Genesis 3:1-24). Following the initial instructions i.e. taking the red pill (as in the Matrix), and entering another universe of perspectives, consequences and in the case of EEAAO, enlightenment. But this, as in partaking in the eating of the apple from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in biblical the Garden of Eden, means the curse of having the ability to see the far, far bigger picture with all the mental consequences of coping with a new reality.

Further enlightenment comes with the curses of the need to communicate to an often unwilling listener, a responsibility to act not out of self-interest, but even worse, empathy! And finally, to face the consequences of being ignored and an outsider, being so far ahead of others that you become the lunatic howling at the moon, like Nietzsche and Proudhon who both eventually went mad. The lead in the movie had to master the various realities and with the knowledge of knowing those other universes that the other actors in her play were not aware and taking the powers of one universe to combat issues in another (sometimes using the wrong ability/lesson for a humorous effect), but still leading to enlightenment (again, a Buddhist outlook).

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