You’ve seen “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” At least I’m hoping you have, because everyone should. The film stars Michelle Yeoh (“Crazy Rich Asians”) as Evelyn, a stressed mother managing a failing laundromat while facing divorce requests from her husband, struggling to accept her daughter’s sexuality and managing her aging father Gong Gong (James Hong, “Turning Red”). Put simply, it is a masterpiece. Its genius is the only simple thing about it.
What initially seems to be a relatively mundane film is flipped on its head when Evelyn, on her way to the IRS for a meeting about their audit of her business, is introduced to the multiverse by a version of her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Kwan, “Finding Ohana”) from another universe. To confront an existential threat to the world that has arrived in the form of her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”), Evelyn must learn to tap into other versions of herself in the multiverse. The multiverse has come to dominate pop culture this year but if you haven’t heard of it yet, here’s the easiest way I can think to describe it to you: Do you ever wonder about “the road not taken?” What would have happened if you had chosen this school instead of that one? What would your life have looked like if you had taken that job in Paris? How would your life be different if you had introduced yourself after Billie Eilish heard you drunk singing to yourself while you peed in that club bathroom? That is the multiverse: the combination of all of the possible iterations of your life, branching out from each tiny or large decision you make.
I thought about the multiverse a lot before I knew it had a name, and I still do. Off the top of my head, I can think of five major life decisions that I constantly ponder, wondering how my life would look now had I made a different choice then. It appears I’m not alone in that, because TikTok, following the success of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and the explosion of multiverse references in various works, has begun to wonder aloud about the other timelines their lives could have followed. The format looks like this: While “Until I Found You” by Stephen Sanchez plays, text on the screen reads, “If the multiverse is real, I hope there’s one where… ”. The TikToks themselves range from sweet to heartbreaking to made-me-spit-out-my-water-level-funny, and reveal the most human thing that humans do: ponder our own existence.
When I first saw “Everything Everywhere All at Once” I was so moved that I was sure I would never be able to write about it. How could I, just one small person living one relatively normal timeline among infinite possibilities of her life, have anything worth sharing to say about such a profound work of art? It took time (and a TikTok trend), but I do: In the true spirit of the film, tap into the various versions of yourself out there in the multiverse that do things you think you can’t. If your multiverse wish is that you actually asked your crush out instead of letting it go, tap into the version of yourself who jumps out of airplanes for fun and feels like asking someone out is no big deal. If your multiverse wish was one that expressed regret and you can’t quite seize the same opportunity anymore — say, you wish there was a universe where you and your ex worked out in the end — think about everything you learned from that experience and apply it to the next one for your highest possible chance of success in the future.
As a child, my contribution to this TikTok trend would have been: “If the multiverse is real, I hope there’s one where I’m a best-selling author building a literary empire.” (That last phrase is a direct quote from my younger self). Well, I’m not a best-selling author, but I am tapping into my multiverse self by sharing my thoughts with you in a flurry of keyboard-tapping on a random Tuesday night. I have to say, I couldn’t have imagined it, but this feels kind of close to living a dream, or at least just as good. The truth is, we’ll never really know what the other timelines are like. We might wish things were different (I know I do), but all we have is this one life, where you can’t undo what’s already been done and find out how things would be different. All we can do is imagine our various selves and tap into the possibilities to make this timeline the best it can be going forward. It’s all we’ve got.
Daily Arts Writer Emmy Snyder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.