'Everything Everywhere All at Once': A Beautifully Chaotic Trip Through the Multiverse
The concept of the multiverse has become a bit of a hot topic as of late. This is mostly due to Marvel using it for several of their recent projects, but the idea that there are other universes than our own has been explored in several movies, TV shows, and books for decades. This new wave of multiverse-centric media might be dominated by Marvel in terms of the quantity of movies that focus on this, but in terms of quality, I have a hard time seeing anything beating how well-crafted, inventive, and impactful Everything Everywhere All at Once is.
This is the latest film from the directing duo known as Daniels (made up of filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) who made their debut with 2016's Swiss Army Man. This film is largely a two-hander starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, with the former playing a depressed, lonely man on a deserted island, and the latter playing a talking, flatulent corpse that helps Dano's character find his way back home. To say it's a weird film would be a slight understatement, but underneath the wilder swings that Daniels take with the film is a story about isolation, depression, and human connection. The film was somewhat divisive, yet it introduced many to the creative, strange, and wholly unique style of Daniels. While Scheinert would go on to make 2019's The Death of Dick Long, many people (myself included) have been waiting for him and Kwan to put out another movie. It may have taken them six years to do this, but it was definitely worth the wait, as Everything Everywhere All at Once sees them going even bigger and bolder than they did with Swiss Army Man, and makes for a visually-stunning, funny, and heartwarming film.
To go into the plot of Everything Everywhere All at Once would involve spoiling some important details, so my description may be vague. In essence, this film is about a woman named Evelyn Wong as she deals with two of life's inevitable things: taxes and laundry. She runs a failing laundromat with her husband, Waymond, and is preparing for an audit from the IRS. In addition to this, Evelyn is also dealing with the growing distance between her and her daughter, Joy, tension between her and Waymond, and the lasting effects of generational trauma from her father. However, she soon finds herself called to connect with various versions of herself across other universes in order to fight an entity that could destroy the multiverse. Over the course of the film, Evelyn must try to save the world, her family, and get her taxes done.
One of the many impressive elements of the film is how amazing it looks. There are numerous parallel universes that we see over the course of the film, from a universe where Evelyn is a celebrity, to one where everyone has hot dogs for fingers, to one involving a reference to the Pixar film Ratatouille that I will not spoil here. Each universe feels slightly different and has a slightly different look and feel to it. For example, the universe where Evelyn is a celebrity is an obvious homage to the films of Wong Kar-Wai, as it uses similar color grading, framing, and employs his trademark use of slow-motion. The other universes we see over the course of the film do similar things, with each using cinematography, editing, and lighting to establish their own aesthetic. It's almost like we see several different movies rolled into one, as the parallel universes take the form of various genres and styles of film. We see a Wuxia inspired action film, a love story, and many others across the film's runtime, which all come together flawlessly and make for a wholly unique experience. This is maximal filmmaking done in a way that few films have ever accomplished, and quite simply, looks incredible. Larkin Seiple's camerawork is excellent, and the way he captures the action of the film, as well as how he composes some of the film's quieter moments is a major highlight. The editing from Paul Rogers perfectly matches the energy that the film has, and helps keep its momentum going from start to finish. These contibutions from Seiple and Rogers go hand in hand to help make the film what it is, and help paint the landscapes of the many fascinating universes we explore throughout.
Of course, the film isn't just visually impressive, it also has a lot of heart, and deals with some rather potent themes. It prominently focuses on generational trauma, and how it can have long-lasting impacts on people. We see this through Evelyn's relationship with her father, as the pressure he put on her as she was growing up still affects her to this day. We also see how this carries on to her relationship with her daughter, Joy, and how the cycle of trauma may be continuing to repeat itself. The film also deals with mental health, self-acceptance, and the stress we feel on a daily basis. The film is an allegory for these things, and is explored in only a way that Daniels could. There are so many wild turns and details weaved into the film, but they all come together to create a beautiful film, and one of the most touching and joy-inducing films I've seen so far this year.
The film also benefits from a stellar cast, led by the incredible Michelle Yeoh. Yeoh has been in the movie business for some time now, and is perhaps best known for her work in the iconic film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. She is consistently great in every movie she's appeared in, but this might be her best performance to date. She has such a strong screen presence, and makes Evelyn feel like a real person. The way she embodies the bewilderment she feels when being introduced to various universes, as well as the commitment she has to some of the film's wilder moments is impressive, and allows the character to feel more three-dimensional. I was also impressed with Stephanie Hsu, who takes a role that could have easily been another angsty teen character, and imbues it with pathos. She also gets the opportunity to embody different versions of her character, which is so fun to watch. Legendary character actor James Wong is also great as Gong Gong, Evelyn's father. He plays two distinct versions of his character, and absolutely nails both of them. Wong is one of those actors who obviously loves and cares about his profession, and this shines through in each of his performances. This is the case here, as he delivers a great performance, and it is clear he had a blast with the character. Also having a blast is Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays Deirdre, the IRS auditor that is investigating the laundromat. She is fully dialed in to the film's bonkers energy, and is quite funny throughout the film. Perhaps the film's biggest stand-out, however, is Ke Huy Quan. This is his first major role in 20 years, but he doesn't miss a beat. He plays Evelyn's husband, Waymond, and gets to play a few different versions of him over the course of the film. He sells each of these so well, which is amazing given that they are so different. We see him as a dorky dad, a suave estranged lover, and an action hero. He nails each persona, and makes subtle, yet strong choices that make his performance stand out even more. I sincerely hope that we continue to see him in more films from here on out, as he gives one of the best comeback performances of all-time here.
There is so much more I could say about Everything Everywhere All at Once, but this is definitely a film that will work best knowing as little as possible about it. It is one of the most inventive films I've seen in a very long time, and absolutely lives up to the hype that many have been giving it. It feels so different from anything I've ever seen, and is an early candidate for my favorite film of the year. It is such a fantastic, massive film that absolutely must be experienced, and is yet another delightfully strange effort from Daniels. Everything Everywhere All at Once is a funny, thrilling, and heartfelt film that leaves a huge impact, and one of the most excellently crafted films I've seen in a long time.