Early on in the 2022 Pixar animated fantasy Turning Red , 13-year-old Mei Lee is subjected to a ghastly public humiliation when her mother, Ming (superbly voiced by Sandra Oh ), goes leafing through her notebook and finds lusty drawings of Devon, the cute older boy Mei’s been crushing on. Convinced that this “degenerate” must have taken advantage of her daughter in some way, Ming furiously confronts the poor, unsuspecting Devon at the convenience store where he works, demanding, in full view of her mortified daughter and several giggling onlookers: “What have you done to my Mei-Mei?” Being embarrassed by one’s parents is a rite of passage for nearly every coming-of-age comedy protagonist. The title of this one warns you that you’re in for a story about chronic shame and embarrassment: Turning Red may be a cheeky menstrual reference (an impressive first for a Pixar movie), but it also describes the basic act of blushing. And this particular humiliation cuts deep, especially if you look at Ming and Mei, a Chinese-Canadian mother-daughter duo, and discern more than an echo of your own experience as a parent, a child, or both. An echo, it’s worth noting, is not a mirror. Speaking in my Mei-adjacent capacity as the Chinese-American son of a Chinese-American mother, my ready identification with that particular scene from Turning Red comes with its own hesitations and qualifications. Even allowing for the comically exaggerated register in which most family-friendly studio animations operate, surely Ming overreacts to a slightly insane degree. Wouldn’t any mother properly interrogate the hell out of her child before jumping to conclusions? Then again, some might argue that it’s precisely Ming’s overreaction that qualifies her as such a recognisable, persuasive model of Asian motherhood. Maybe you too were raised by an Asian-American (or Asian-Canadian) mother with some resemblance to Ming, a mum who only ever wanted the best for you and never let you forget it. Maybe she wanted you to enjoy the material benefits of a Western upbringing while still upholding the strict cultural traditions of an Eastern one – and to that end, she rigorously policed your academics, your extracurricular activities and your sorry excuse for a social life. Maybe she skimped on verbal and physical affection, favouring a love language that expressed itself in steamers full of dumplings or plates of sliced fruit. Green Mothers’ Club: tiger mothers rule in K-drama on Netflix Maybe she didn’t mind embarrassing you in public, since your family, being of Asian descent, and therefore perpetual outsider status, didn’t really belong to that public in any meaningful sense. And maybe she’d blanch if anyone dared call her a “tiger mum”, a term popularised by Amy Chua’s 2011 memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother , and disavowed by many as offensive. Whose Asian-American childhood wasn’t, at some point, a horror movie? In Umma (2022), Iris Shim’s muddled but intriguing ghost story, Oh plays Amanda, a quietly anxious Korean-American mother whose lengthy estrangement from her emotionally abusive mother has sinister implications for her relationship with her own teenage daughter. Shim’s attempt to meld parental trauma and boogey-mum shivers isn’t entirely successful, but Oh’s performance sounds a resonant echo of her very different work in Turning Red . In both movies, a cycle of generational pain can be broken only when a controlled and controlling mother learns to relinquish her tight hold on her own kid – and, ultimately, herself. As the director and co-writer of Turning Red already demonstrated in her Oscar-winning Pixar short, Bao (2018), Domee Shi has a gift for exploring deep cross-cultural, cross-generational dynamics via an outlandish fantasy conceit. An even more out-there kind of intergenerational reconciliation takes place in Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s multiverse-hopping action-comedy extravaganza Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022). Protagonist Evelyn Wang ( Michelle Yeoh ) is an emotionally and financially taxed Chinese-American woman for whom marriage and motherhood have long since stopped paying meaningful dividends. And while this Evelyn turns out to be just one of many Evelyns, she grants Yeoh a rare opportunity to play frustrated and frazzled, to embrace a rougher, messier version of the sedate, ultra-composed mothers and mentor figures populating her filmography. Before Everything Everywhere , Yeoh’s most famous mother role was in Crazy Rich Asians , in which she plays Eleanor Young , a member of Singapore’s ultra-wealthy Chinese elite bent on ensuring her highly eligible son doesn’t marry a mere commoner. On paper, Eleanor is pretty one-note, but Yeoh is terrifically nuanced. Showing us the motivation behind every pursed lip and dagger-like glare, she roots Eleanor’s intense judgment, persuasively and tragically, in a lifetime of being continually judged herself. Eleanor has it all together; Evelyn, gloriously, does not. Kwan and Scheinert aren’t afraid to milk her for screwball laughs, poking fun at her anxiety, her grumpiness and her creative bungling of the English language. But Evelyn is also a figure of tremendous pathos. Killing Eve’s final season emotionally charged, ‘more personal’ Like the hopeless yin to Ming’s overachieving yang, she’s full of hopes and aspirations but unable to fulfil any of them. She runs a failing business, barely occupies one half of a foundering marriage and is forever at odds with her teenage daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu). Evelyn is, in her own estimation, a catastrophic failure at life, the worst possible version of herself. And when she gets a chance to behold all the other possible versions of herself, she experiences profound regret – at having left her home country to move to a place where she barely spoke the language; at having run off to marry a man who never earned her family’s approval; and at having given up dreams and opportunities for a life that doesn’t, in the end, seem to have been worth the sacrifice. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that while Evelyn’s fate may ultimately be too eccentric to be described as universal (or multiversal), her regret is nonetheless achingly recognisable. I’ve heard those regrets articulated within my own circle of family and friends, and I’ve seen them, albeit less often, in the faces of movie characters. I’m thinking of Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari (2020), specifically Yeri Han’s piercing performance as a Korean immigrant woman far from home, carrying her family through a trying time. I’m thinking, too, of Alice Wu’s indie charmer Saving Face (2004), which, like Everything Everywhere – a movie it doesn’t otherwise much resemble – follows a super-stressed Chinese-American mother in denial about, among other things, her daughter’s sexuality. You can see the ghosts of these films and a few others – including Lulu Wang’s The Farewell (2019) and Wayne Wang’s The Joy Luck Club (1993), still the grandmother of all Asian-American mother-daughter movies – continually refracted through Everything Everywhere ’s labyrinth of meta-mirrors. How the China-set second sequel to The Mummy buried the popular franchise And maybe you’ll see echoes of your own mother too; I certainly see mine, even if they are incomplete, imperfect echoes. Everything Everywhere All at Once etches a singularly vivid portrait of a woman we seldom encounter in American movies – a Chinese immigrant who is also a mother, a daughter, a businesswoman, a fighter, a chef, a singer, an actor, a genius and a screw-up – and suggests, scene by scene and transformation by transformation, that she is far more than a set of tropes or a one-joke thumbnail. As the title suggests, she contains emotional, spiritual and experiential multitudes; she’s infinity incarnate, and she’s also just the beginning. The peculiar triumph of Everything Everywhere All at Once isn’t that it makes anyone feel seen. It suggests, on the contrary, that we haven’t seen anything yet.