An aging Chinese immigrant is swept up in an insane adventure, where she alone can save the world by exploring other universes connecting with the lives she could have led.
‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ (try saying that multiple times!) is a movie that is pretty difficult to describe, and certainly can’t be done in a way that would do justice to what the movie is really about. It begins with our protagonist Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese-American woman who runs a launderette (badly), who is preparing for an audit by the IRS whilst dealing with the shock of her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan – a return to acting after a 20 year break) serving her divorce papers. Whilst at their meeting with a particularly difficult IRS inspector (Jamie Lee Curtis, channelling the bureaucratic vibes of Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’), Evelyn finds out that there are parallel universe versions of herself and she must find a way to connect with them to stop a powerful being from causing the destruction of the multiverse. If that sounds a little crazy and out there, it certainly is, but bear with it….!
We, as the audience, learn about the multiverse and the parallel universes at the same time as Evelyn does, which helps to make her a very relatable protagonist. We see her jumping from universe to universe, into different versions of herself, some similar to our world, some different and some just completely absurd (i.e. a universe where everyone has hot dogs for fingers). Throwing so much at the screen and hoping some of it sticks doesn’t often work but here it’s the primary asset – the fast and slick editing makes this a breathless and exhilarating journey through Evelyn’s mind and the crazy variety of universes that directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert have came up with. ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ is a kaleidoscope of ideas, visuals and genres and incredibly for the most part it actually works!
The multiverse as a concept has driven a large amount of Marvel’s recent work and as recently as last month I complained (when reviewing ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’) that focusing on this concept removed stakes and was symptomatic of a studio running out of ideas. This movie shows that there is mileage in the multiverse, but only if you have filmmakers willing to take risks to do something fresh and wildly original with a concept that seemingly has no limits. Beyond the incredible blend of genres and ideas on show here, the reason ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ succeeds is because beneath all of that is a simple story about family and that heart is a huge reason why we’re so invested in some of the crazier developments (I was 100% there for ‘Raccoontouile‘). The Marvel movies have started compromising its characters in recent movies; this never forgets that the characters are the heart of the story and they can remain so regardless of how heavily you lean into the sci-fi aspects of your story.
‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ is anarchic, absurdist and at times all over the place, but somehow the filmmakers and a very game cast turn this into its biggest strength – let’s just hope they don’t ruin it all by making sequels!
Directed By: Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert
Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tallie Medel, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., Biff Wiff, Sunita Mani, Aaron Lazar, Audrey Wasilewski and Daniel Scheinert