David James’s review published on Letterboxd:
When I choose to see the good side of things, I'm not being naïve. It is strategic and necessary. It's how I've learned to survive through everything.
Not many lines of dialogue have ever spoken to my soul in a more intimate way than the above quote, delivered by Ke Huy Quan to Michelle Yeoh during the climax of this beautifully overstuffed philosophical-family-action-comedy extravaganza. This, this is exactly how I have forged my way through the world despite the many losses and setbacks that I've endured through my nearly forty years of life so far. I've been accused of being a blind optimist, or ignoring the negatives, especially by my wife, whose anxiety issues have given her a more assume-the-worst-and-dwell-on-it outlook. But in all truthfulness I am no optimist in the true dictionary-definition sense of the word. I don't hold confidence about the future or successful outcomes for everything I encounter. In fact you could say that I plan for the worst in most cases - mentally and emotionally. I reflexively picture the darkest possible future and prepare my mind to accept it and then take the next step: what would I do afterward? How would I react, what would I do? How would I deal and then move on? This tends to have the effect of washing away any anxiety I may have about the future - I never suffer twice when something bad happens by worrying about it beforehand.
This is possible because I always keep in mind the fact that I have persevered beyond total life-wrecking moments and stretches of great despair. I've lost those closest to me, I've been imprisoned, I've been violently attacked, and very few things in life at this point could possibly rock me to my core to the extent that's already happened. And I survived, I thrived, I moved on, and I'm still here, despite everything. So when I'm facing a tough situation, whether it's an upcoming job interview or a risky medical procedure or a gamble on moving my family to a new home in a new city, I approach it with calm poise. I know that come what may, I'll be here breathing and thinking and able to adapt and deal, to overcome in some way, and life will go on. And hell, if it doesn't go on, I won't be here to worry about it anyway.
There is one thought however that has the ability to absolutely crush me. My kryptonite, so to speak. This is the thought of losing my son. I know, philosophically, that if I were to ever lose him, I could physically carry on, that I would soldier forward through the remainder of my days even with that absolute devastation carving out my heart and soul. But I would never be the same, and I'd have much of my source of joy and genuine, dictionary-definition optimism stripped from my core. This is a truth known by every loving parent, the great fear of anyone who becomes a mother or father. It's nothing to dwell on, but it is a possibility that must be accepted, somewhere in the back of your mind. It's simply too deep into the abyss to truly gaze at for long without slipping into despair. But every once in a while - like after a mass murder at an elementary school, or, like in this movie, an interdimensional cataclysm - that possibility rears up in your face and is impossible to look away.
There's a reason the daughter in this movie is named Joy. At the very height of the climax, when the very real possibility of losing her forever has consumed the world all around, Yeoh looks deep into her eyes and assures her, "I will always, always want to be here with you." At that instant, the floodgates opened up and I sobbed uncontrollably. It's all you can do with that built up feeling bursting from within. The hair stands up on my neck even just typing this now. Total catharsis, admitting the great fear connected directly to the great love in order to finally let go of it. Letting that worry dissipate like pollen in the wind, the tension easing from every muscle as the body relaxes, breathing slows, and then, gradually, the sobs are replaced with a subtle giddiness. Laughter follows, the best kind, with tears still drying on the cheeks as they bulge and redden. The hard-won smile after the toughest battle of the soul. Of all the wild things that happen nearly every second of this cinematic explosion, it's a final crying, laughing, cathartic hug between a mother and daughter that feels the most like magic.
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I want to write so much more about Everything Everywhere All at Once. I actually had to watch this twice to even come close to solidifying my thoughts about it, once with my wife and then once alone a few days later. So much happens, so many details are packed into every frame. The jokes and stunts and weird little flourishes come so fast and furious it's hard to imagine that it could hit in such a direct emotional fashion by the end, but it does. I've got thoughts about how much this feels like peak Gondry, how much it has to say about our hypersaturated online worlds and how they both add and subtract to our tactile everyday reality, how many gobsmacking references and inspirations burst through every musical cue and gonzo stunt and meticulous bit of set design. I can't stop laughing about Racoocoonie, about Jamie Lee Curtis' best performance in decades, about the way a subtitled conversation between two silent, unmoving rocks ends up reaffirming one of the fundamental truths about reality as a dumb little human on this planet: "we are small and stupid, that's our whole thing," and how it feels so radically freeing to accept. But I'm going to save some of that for next time. Today, I just want to focus on the emotional spine of this kaleidoscopic film and luxuriate in the way it made me think and feel more than I ever could have expected with a movie featuring an extended butt plug battle.