Everything Everywhere All At Once is a mess. It’s a chaotic and warped film, but isn’t that how life is, too? A24’s latest film, starring Michelle Yeoh, is A LOT to take in. But, the meaning behind all the disorder is what makes it the most stunning and brilliant film so far this year. Just like in life, once you embrace the chaos, you’ll find the true beauty in the story of family, the choices we make in our lives, and embracing what we have.
Directed by The Daniels, a.k.a. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All At Once tells the story of Evelyn Wang (Yeoh), who is seemingly miserable with her life. She runs a failing laundromat with her kind husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) and they are in a loveless marriage. Evelyn also takes care of her ungrateful father (James Hong). And she’s estranged from her daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), who yearns for her family to accept her longtime girlfriend.
Evelyn comes off as unhappy, rude, and pushy. But it’s only because she tries to keep everything and everyone afloat. She ultimately ends up disappointing everyone, including herself. On the way to visit their IRS auditor (Jamie Lee Curtis), another universe’s version of Waymond takes over his consciousness. The alternate version tells Evelyn of the multiverse that exists. It is up to this version of Evelyn to defeat the evil entity known as Jobu Tobacky, who is hellbent on destroying the multiverse.
Evelyn uses an earpiece to “jump” the multiple subconsciousness of Evelyns from other universes. This universe hopping allows her to acquire their special skills, including martial arts, sign flipping, and culinary knife skills. But, this only happens after performing a weird act like blowing into someone’s nose or eating a stick of Chapstick. These different universes are not just extreme versions of Evelyn. Viewers also glimpses into her life if she had made other choices. These include never marrying Waymond or becoming blind as a child.
The pacing of the film is intentionally swift, adding more absurdities as the movie continues. But there is always a purpose. There is a rich and deep story within the ridiculousness of it all that makes one laugh, scream hysterically, cry, and question what matters most in life. Adding a Chinese American family provides some specific nuances to generational pressure and burden. However, it’s not necessarily the main focus. The true appeal of the story is the concept of nihilism vs stoicism. And, despite the choices we’ve made, how we can find meaning and purpose in them.
Yeoh is finally given a role that extends her acting past the beautiful and elegant icon she’s most known for. Her performance contains so many layers from being neurotic and clueless at times to the compassionate and serious Yeoh we’ve seen many times. The glamorous star even gets to do some unexpected slapstick humor. Yeoh never misses a beat during the mayhem, which is necessary for the story to flow.
Quan is equally impressive as Waymond. There are so many subtexts to Quan’s performance that touches on perceptions of Asian actors, particularly Asian men, and their roles. He is given a fully fleshed out character who is initially perceived as meek and battered by his dominating wife, but is truly the heart of the film. The multiverse of Waymond contains a range from a quiet, kind man to a martial arts master with an exciting and mind-blowing fight scene. He also gets to look like the suave leading man in a Wong Kar-Wai film. Hsu is a star in the making with her performance as Joy. The way her character feels the brunt of her mother’s disappointment and carries this guilt and burden is all too relatable.
The Daniels are known for their frenzied music videos, including the iconic “ Turn Down For What“ by DJ Snake and Lil John. Together, they utilize their skills of excessiveness to create this spectacular multiverse that feels ludicrous but makes complete sense. At times, the lunacy does feel like overkill; however, there are enough emotional pauses and moments of levity that keeps the story grounded. There is just so much metaphorical depth to the film that stays with you even after the credits roll.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is an existential story about the meaning of life and the choices we make. And, through its endless possibilities, this film reminds us that we only have this one life. The title fits the narrative perfectly and is reflective of how life really is: chaotic, complex, and cannot be fully explained, but felt.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is available in theaters nationwide on March 25, 2022.