The directing duo Daniels (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) make their second feature film together with Everything Everywhere All at Once, whose title may just as well be an apt descriptor for what the viewers can expect themselves to experience from watching it. In fact, a film like Everything Everywhere All at Once seems to try and reach out as many people, going from those who were fascinated by the concept of the multiverse to film lovers, and maybe even to the inner child in most of us, for the ride that’s provided goes through most facets of life, from the happy to the mundane, while being thoughtful and ever so frantic. But underneath all of that, there’s something so much sweeter. If anything, it best states the film as a labour of love, all in a package that’s only set to overflow.
Michelle Yeoh stars as Evelyn Wang, a Chinese American woman who lives together with her meek husband Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan, in a noted comeback performance) and daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu). Evelyn owns a struggling laundromat together with Waymond, but tensions arise as her business is being audited and Waymond is trying to give her divorce papers, and Evelyn’s father Gong Gong arrives. All of this sounds so overwhelming for Evelyn to handle, but an encounter with Waymond from an alternate universe sends her on another journey going forth. As far as movies indulging with the concept of the multiverse can go, this film finds itself among the more creative end – perhaps as it’s one that’s entirely confident on its own, embracing the absurd and the poignant in a great blend.
We’ve seen the multiverse as a concept most often these days within franchise films: especially in superhero media (fittingly enough, two of the film’s producers are none other than Anthony and Joe Russo, who many would recognize for having directed the two latest Avengers films). Yet Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert make a film that’s ever so frenetic, so funny, yet ultimately so heartfelt underneath it all. One minute, you’re watching a gonzo action movie and the next you’re watching a heartfelt family drama. There’s never a moment where these ever feel like they’re in conflict with one another, if anything, sometimes even the more childish moments just seem to build up to something grander, which the Daniels touch upon seamlessly in this absurd and grandiose journey through life (and many more).
But perhaps it’s only fitting that a film like this starts off by showing the overwhelming nature of Evelyn’s own daily routine, and what it’s like to try and catch up – because as a human being she simply can’t be everywhere all at once. Yet the Daniels make a great usage of the multiverse concept to emphasize the manner the way one version of Evelyn can live her own life will affect the course of another Evelyn’s life, because of the many possibilities stemming from as much as one decision we make in a certain life. One life we see Evelyn just living her usual boring and mundane life together with Waymond in America, another we see her as a movie star in a moment that pays tribute to the films of Wong Kar-wai, but another we see her as a martial arts expert. The same can be said about the many different incarnations of Waymond or Gong Gong that she encounters along the way, but there’s a point in which we see this less as any other zany action comedy but an absurdist tale all about retaining a sense of control over one’s own life. Through many incarnations of her own life as is, we see Evelyn changing her ways but the Daniels still find room to make the zany nature of the situation at hand so thoughtful and empathetic; perhaps best shown through a moment where Evelyn and her daughter take on the form of rocks without any real “life,” just reflecting on what’s really in the world for them.
Everyone is singing out their praises for Michelle Yeoh, because she’s wonderful as anyone could ever expect her to be, but I think that the real star of the show is none other than Ke Huy Quan – in his first major role for the screen, since the early 1990’s (and maybe most recognizable role since The Goonies and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). There’s a perfect blend between himself playing a meek father and an action star in here, but the stunning part about how he shows himself to be comes from his own comedic timing as he’s playing both characters at the same time. Perhaps if anything, a concept like this would be able to give room for their own acting talents to go beyond what’s expected of their characters, but it still allows them a space for them all to be themselves with no issue, because the way it all mixes together is so sweet and endearing, I couldn’t help but smile just seeing him back here.
With all my highest praises, I’m also feeling like the title is both the film’s greatest blessing and curse. While I will admit that there’s never been a moment in the movie where it ever lost any of its joys, I couldn’t also help but feel as if it seems to lose even its own self towards its later moments. This is most true about its final moments, while the heaviest hitters do land, it’s getting there that seems to be a tad tedious, with all the ideas that the film is trying to culminate on the spot. Ultimately, the film does land, but I think that with how much of the film is built around the idea of an absurdist take on daily life, the many lives we could have lived, it ends up cluttering a tad too much all at the same time, maybe not to the effect that was always desired.
Maybe a minor gripe for me to have, but given how much I really disliked Swiss Army Man prior, to say that I was stunned by how much I liked Everything Everywhere All at Once is understating it. I think there’s also something that I can’t help but love about the fact that a film like this has been making waves to the extent that it has, especially as most films that seem to garner such a wide fanbase of this sort tend to be a part of a huge franchise. It was a treat to be able to see this on an IMAX screen at that, but I think that any screen whether big or small could only suit the rush of emotions that any audience member would be bound to experience from watching a film that’s truly about everything happening, everywhere around you, all at once.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via A24.
Directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Screenplay by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Produced by Joe Russo, Anthony Russo, Mike Larocca, Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert, Jonathan Wang
Starring Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis
Release Date: March 25, 2022
Running Time: 140 minutes