Bnonn Tennant (the B is silent)

Where a recovering ex-atheist skewers things with a sharp two-edged sword

About Relationships, Society, Culture

Everything Everywhere All At Once—a review

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3 minutes to read As the historical ordering principles of our culture disintegrate, we try to find meaning in the idea that our alternate lives might be better. But infinite potentiality devours meaning; it cannot create it.

This is a hell of a movie—but not generally in a good way. It is technically dazzling, and story-wise, I imagine that different people will get different things out of it. My wife enjoyed it; I enjoyed the first half—but, by the time it finished, I came away disturbed and deflated.

It’s the kind of movie that Christian historians who understand symbolism will have a field day with in a few centuries, as they trace the fall of the West and examine how its entertainment tracked along.

It was essentially an act of worship and obeisance to the void, in which the devouring nature of infinite potentiality without rule or regulation was simultaneously glorified and propitiated. But I have noticed that the appeasement of chaos has become very weak in these kinds of movies; when you look into the void, the void also looks into you, and the longer you look, the more it devours, until your efforts to glorify it start looking very frightening, and your attempts to convince everyone that everything is ok start to ring very hollow. Since by definition there’s no rule or regulation, what starts out as a fun romp through crazy possibilities can’t help but turn into directionless, plotless nonsense.

There is some effort to redeem it with what, to my Western mind, looks like a gloss of traditionally Christian values (love, family, onetogetherness etc). But this inevitably become more and more absurd as the chaos eats more and more of the foundation of these things, and exposes the lie that they can even exist or matter in the world of the movie at all.

Overall, the first half is fun, and then the face comes off and you realize that it’s really an exploration of the nihilistic despair of facing a world in which you are “free” to formulate your own identity without any guidance, constraint, or sense, and a comically inadequate and tacked-on-feeling apologetic for solving the despair by choosing the constraint of being nice. It may be trying to insert some Taoism, balancing order and chaos; there is even a line early on explicitly about this. The problem is, it follows nihilistic logic to its end, which just is destructive, without the possibility of any truly positive resolution. Thus it actually depicts chaos devouring order.

It tries to cover this despair with a thin blanket of traditional values, where the solution is basically to arbitrarily pick one out of infinite potentialities and stick with it—but this can never overcome the intense sense of meaningless it establishes. The climax resolves nothing, and despite being depicted as love on the human scale, is intercut with two planets colliding—a cosmic symbol of arbitrary destruction.

There is, of course, also the obligatory homosexual main character, and the positive portrayal of disordered things like BSDM and homosexuality certainly added to the confusion of interpreting the film. Overall, I would give it a hard pass. The best of the action could be found in compilation clips online, and the rest isn’t worth it.

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