Relationships worth fighting for

Everything Everywhere All At Once

I love watching movies, and one that caught my attention this year is Everything Everywhere All at Once. 

When I read that it addresses the philosophical theme of our existence, depression, generational trauma and Asian American identity, I knew I had to see it.  

Everything Everywhere All at Once tells the story of an Asian immigrant family in the United States struggling to find significance, love, connection, safety, hope and faith while defeating evil powers in the multiverse. It connects to me on many levels — as an Asian, as an immigrant and as a believer.  

It is messy, chaotic and complicated, but at its heart is a simple story — a story of reconciliation. 

I’m amazed at how this movie captured the chaotic reality of an immigrant family. Sometimes everything seems to happen all at once, and we are forced to adapt at a fast pace just to survive.  

Living in more than one culture, as immigrants do, is messy, painful and chaotic. It might also be disorganized and disorienting. But then you will see things differently from another culture’s perspective, and you will realize that something important in one’s own culture is not necessarily important in others. 

The movie reminds me of the role of martial arts in different cultures. Every culture, especially in Asia, has its own martial arts discipline. And, contrary to what the media portray as a violent act, the martial arts offer conflict transformation in a peaceful way.  

“True martial arts aren’t about snapping your opponent’s bones or forcing a humiliating surrender. Those results lead only to further conflict. They are about peace and nonviolence and a safe and honorable outcome for all,” says Steve Thomas, a Mennonite minister who holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.  

That is exactly the outcome of the martial art used by the protagonist, Evelyn Wang, played by Malaysian actress Michele Yeoh, in Everything Everywhere All at Once. She fights to bring peace, nonviolence and reconciliation. She does this by using her powers to connect and understand the opponents’ deepest longings and desires and then fulfilling them, causing all to stop fighting and be at peace. 

This movie reminds me that we are in a battle against dark forces. There is a dark supernatural force in the movie that steals light, joy and hope and creates despair, affecting everyone around it — especially one person who wants to end all existence because that person is hurting. Hurt people hurt people.

This reminds me that “our struggle is not against enemies of flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). The only way to triumph is to reconcile people through the way of love that Jesus Christ showed us.

Everything Everywhere All at Once tells a story of reconciliation between parents and their daughter. It is a reconciliation between cultures and generations. We do need to fight for our relationships, and this movie shows us how. 

All the fighting scenes between mother and daughter and the rest of the antagonists lead to a deeper understanding of each other’s pain and trauma. At the end there is recognition that we are all human, broken and in need of redemption.

The movie’s theme of reconciliation reminds me of Luke 1:17, where an angel tells Zechariah that his son, John, will “turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  

John prepared the way for Jesus, whose ministry is reconciliation. As Anabaptists, reconciliation is the center of our work.

I invite you to watch Everything Everywhere All at Once and dive into a unique narrative that doesn’t fit into one box. Get into the mind of Evelyn Wang and understand her struggle to reconcile her relationship with her daughter, father, husband, friends and others.  

The movie won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress. Michele Yeoh is the first Asian woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress. In her acceptance speech, she said, “For all the little boys and girls that look like me tonight, never stop dreaming. History is in the making.”  

The journey toward reconciliation between generations and cultures has a long way to go, but it’s worth fighting for. Jesus, be with us all.  

Hendy Matahelemual

Hendy Stevan Matahelemual is an ordained minister in Mosaic Mennonite Conference and lives in Philadelphia. 

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