If it weren’t for my teenage son, I wouldn’t have gone to see “Everything Everywhere All at Once” in a movie theater. I’m happy I did, but not because it’s a great film.
I’m a big fan of Michelle Yeoh (come on, she kicked all the other Bond women flat on their bottoms), and Ke Huy Quan’s comeback since the 1984 “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” touched my heart. However, the premise “Everything” and its trailer left me eh – I’ll wait to stream it.
But then my youngest kid said he wanted to see it on the big screen. This is a boy with an underground sense of humor who doesn’t get excited by much and most of the time goes along with family activities just to please us, so when he expresses an interest in something, we jump.
Sitting in the dark theater next to the teenager, I resigned myself to a silly sci-fi flick. Don’t get me wrong: I love “The Matrix” movies, I just doubted “Everything” could live up to that Oscar-winning series.
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Fine, the multiverse thread intrigued me. In high school, I read Jorge Luis Borges’ short story “The Garden of Forking Paths,” which asks what if when facing choices in our lives, instead of choosing one and eliminating the others, we chose all of them? Ever since, I’ve had a theory that dreams are actually visits to our other lives born out of our other choices. And here it was, on screen.
But I realized early in the corny movie the who and the why of the supposed villain, so I lost interest.
Still, the acting impressed me, and I gasped when I realized I hadn’t recognized Jamie Lee Curtis right away. And the choreography of all the fighting and flying caught my breath just thinking about all the hours the actors had to spend rehearsing and filming those scenes. Wow!
Yeoh’s athleticism and martial arts still kick ass. She’s 60. And her interpretations of her character’s lives forked into death-defying poetry.
What made the movie for me, though, was when it was my son’s turn to gasp at the screen. I figured he had discovered some Easter egg he would tell me about later, and I couldn’t wait.
Getting to know my own teenage son
Afterward over dinner, my parents-in-law, my son and I hashed over the good, the bad and the confusing of “Everything.” My father-in-law and I thought it was silly. My mother-in-law liked the movie, but the usually hard-to-impress teen said it “exceeded” his expectations. I stored that eyebrow-raising nugget away to tell my husband and my older children.
What about when you gasped and touched my arm? I asked him. What caught your attention?
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It was a song that repeated in “Everything,” he said – “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy.
Carol Anne, Big Bob and I looked at him incredulously. Who is this boy and what did he do with our Thai-Son Elston, who like other kids is usually glued to online gaming and YouTube videos? When did he start listening to classical music? How did he ever learn of this piece by a French composer published a century before he was born?
“I don’t know. The internet,” Thai-Son said with a shrug. But the song was a favorite of his as background music for doing homework, and it even helped him write a short story for English class.
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It turned out that where he first heard “Clair de Lune” was on “Top Gear,” a British reality-TV show about friends – questionably mature men but admittedly humorous little dears – racing cars around the world. My favorite episode, of course, was when they raced motorbikes the length of Vietnam, my birthplace.
And it turned out that the short story taught us something else about Thai-Son we hadn’t realized: He’s a good writer. I was so impressed I even Googled some of his sentences to make sure he didn’t plagiarize anyone. You can’t blame me. I’m a copy editor and fact-checker.
So there you have it: We went to see “Everything” and learned we didn’t know everything about our own universe. Thai-Son was our plot twist.
I’m glad “Everything Everywhere All at Once” received 11 Oscar nominations, including best actress for Michelle Yeoh and supporting acting nods for Jamie Lee Curtis, Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu. I’ll cheer for them on Oscar night, March 12.
But for me, the movie won my heart through my son, who he is now and who he’s learning to be. As Jorge Luis Borges wrote in his short story: “The evening was at once intimate and infinite.”
Thuan Le Elston, a member of USA TODAY’s Editorial Board, is the author of “Rendezvous at the Altar: From Vietnam to Virginia.” Follow her on Twitter: @thuanelston
More from Thuan Le Elston:
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Story Credit: usatoday.com