Everything Everywhere All at Once

Everything Everywhere All at Once ★★★★★

The multiverse. Most people immediately think of the MCU when the term is heard. But there is a new film that is out now that is the best multiverse film and I don’t think that title will ever be topped. That film is Everything Everywhere All at Once. Not just the best multiverse film but one of the most creative, original, and entertaining films I’ve ever seen.

Living a struggling life surrounded by taxes, audits, and a dysfunctional family, Chinese-American, Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) discovers that she has the power to exist in parallel universes while simultaneously acquiring an ability to control objects. When a mysterious entity causes a rupture across dimensions, Evelyn is tasked to save the world from a disastrous fate.

Everything Everywhere All at Once is the latest film from Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, better known as Daniels. First hitting big with their stylistically distinct music videos and short films, the duo made their feature debut with Swiss Army Man. Immediately, they established themselves as unique visionaries; taking the most bizarre scenarios and creating something moving and profound in the process. Everything Everywhere All at Once was highly anticipated amongst cinephiles and understandably so. The plot and ideas seemed so crazy and original in a landscape of generic mainstream studio films. I was excited after seeing the trailer but I did not expect to be blown away as much as I was. This is a film that is truly extraordinary; there is not one film that even comes close to being as bold and unique as Everything Everywhere All at Once. Leaving the theater, I was not the same person because everything that makes cinema such a special medium of art is embodied here to the fullest extent. And this is a very hard film to review because it’s best to go in completely cold. This will be spoiler-free but when watching the situations unfold, in any other film it would not work. It’s so bizarre and so energetic, but everything just makes sense. 

The plot is like a complicated jigsaw puzzle; it appears to be a mess but when connecting everything together, it works perfectly. More than just being about the multiverse, the film is more of a look at family dynamics, intergenerational trauma, and even the meaning of life. The multiverse is the key plot, but the themes and metaphors are what really sell the movie. To talk about it on the surface, it is astonishing just how coherent and non-confusing the plot is. This is a film that deserves your full attention; the film moves at such a rapid pace and changes directions so quickly that for some, it might be a bit overkill. You absolutely need to pay attention or else it could be very confusing. However, the film still guides you without spoon-feeding every bit of information. The film works and does not feel confusing because there is a strong amount of self-awareness. When Evelyn is first introduced to the concept of the multiverse through a variant of her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), she is completely confused and lost. There are moments where Evelyn and Waymond acknowledge that the way they travel through dimensions and possess other variants of themselves make no sense and are absurd. Since we are thrown into these situations alongside Evelyn, we are asking the same questions. But as soon as she gets used to her new power, so do we as the audience become accustomed to the rules of the film. Never once does the film pander or dumb down anything, it has such a strong energy that also manages to be very sincere, more on that later. This is the type of film that I want to go back and rewatch multiple times. Not just because it’s entertaining, but because there are likely tons of details and hints laying around to help make for a better experience. These types of stories are the ones that intrigue me the most. But what really makes Everything Everywhere All at Once’s narrative so strong are its themes. I mentioned this before, but I see the film as not simply an interdimensional multiverse movie. It is instead a look at existentialism, self struggle and worth, and even optimistic nihilism. 

The inciting incident of the film establishes Evelyn’s situation. Her laundromat business is struggling with failure to pay back the IRS, her relationship with her husband and father (James Hong) is weak, and slowly but surely, her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is becoming more distant. It’s safe to say that Evelyn is stuck in a boring and unhappy life. Her discovery of the multiverse shows many variants of herself in careers that appear way more exciting: a movie star, a hibachi chef, a singer, and a martial arts master, just to name a few. She could be any one of these people, but she’s stuck in her current life. It raises the question: should we remain content with our meaningless life despite the struggle and possible depression, or should we fantasize about better situations to make ourselves feel more significant? Existentially, this concept is quite terrifying but also thought-provoking. What if there really is another version of myself in another universe that is living a better life. What makes the use of these themes so special is despite the admittedly crappy situations the characters are in, there’s never an ounce of cynicism. I’m not saying that the film is completely joyful but it shows that there’s a greater picture of our current selves. Even in a multiverse where there are thousands of Evelyns, the one she currently embodies is the real her. The real you. Rather than feeling insignificant, make the most of it. Even when times feel hopeless or irreparable, the place (or universe) we reside in is for a good reason. To be with loved ones or live life to the fullest, even if there is in fact a multiverse. The familial dynamics are also such a strong element of the film’s success. It’s clear that this family is on its last leg. Every situation is thrown at them whether it be their business or the intergenerational trauma between Evelyn and Joy creates a divide. Evelyn wants the best for her daughter but from Joy’s perspective, ultimately alienates her. But the way the film handles the emotions through the use of the multiverse plot was very touching. Without giving anything away, it handles it in such a creative way that is so unexpected.

All the performances are fantastic. Michelle Yeoh is marvelous in her portrayal of not just regular Evelyn, but also her variants. I don’t even know how many costume and makeup changes she goes through in this film, but it’s a crazy amount. Every single bit of her performance showcases her incredible range and versatility as an actress in one package. It’s like seeing her act in different roles in different movies but instead combined into one story. Perhaps the most surprising performance was from Ke Huy Quan, who is best known for playing Short Round in Temple of Doom. This was his first performance in over 20 years after initially retiring from acting. It’s not only great to see him back in a film after so long, but his performance is one of the biggest hearts that the movie has. We sense that his character is broken and wants more validation but not in a selfish way. He wants to be loved and doesn’t want to see his family torn apart. It’s really sad, but he nails the performance. The film just has a great roundup of actors that not only portray characters I care about but could also relate to, feel emotion for, and create a strong sense of believability. Speaking of emotions, this film has perhaps one of the best blends of varying emotions I’ve seen done. The dramatic moments are earned and honest and make me really sympathize with the characters, but for most of the film, it plays as a straight-up comedy. There are so many moments in this film that had me nearly in tears from laughing. It just has really well-written dialogue with excellent payoffs for its humor. And some of the scenarios are so out there and so strange that the gut reaction is to laugh, but that’s the goal. The goal is to make you look at what’s happening and think “this is crazy, I love it.” It’s not random LOL humor, it’s genuinely funny. Some of the stuff the Daniels came up with, I just don’t know how they came up with these ideas. It’s absolute madness and insanity. And the fact that I was seeing this in a real movie made it all the more special to see such original audacity unfold before my very eyes.

On the topic of scenarios, it’s now time to talk about the film’s style because wow. Everything Everywhere All at Once is easily one of the most visually and stylistically creative, original, and bold films I’ve ever seen. For a film that takes place across multiple universes, it is astounding just how distinct each universe is and how every aspect of this film’s worldbuilding and lore feels incredibly original. Stylistically, each of Evelyn’s variants carries a specific look. Her movie-star persona evokes the style of a Wong Kar-wai film, her martial arts persona looks like a classic kung fu flick, and her singer persona is loaded with bright, saturated colors. Every universe looks distinct and none gel together. When we cut back to each universe, sometimes in rapid succession, we clearly know where we are at. Visually, it’s a stunning work of cinema due to its varying locations, unique set design, and frantic pacing. But if we want to talk about the film’s unmatched identity, we need to talk about the action sequences and editing. First, the action scenes are unbelievable. It has an energy that is all gas no brakes. Everything happens so fast but it feels so methodical. You know that every single shot, joke, or bit of action choreography was meticulously planned to be the best it possibly could be. This is the type of film where you can’t look away for even a second because you'll miss something. Whether it be a plot transition or just how frenetic and enjoyably chaotic the action scenes are. And with the possession of certain multiverse powers, the action scenes go in directions that describing them would give away their uniqueness. Decisions and creative choices that are so off-the-wall and so bizarre that they make the strangest Adult Swim cartoon look like normal everyday activity. The choreography and stunt work is so impressive to watch. Especially considering that most of the film was shot with practical effects, everything looks and feels real.

The editing in Everything Everywhere All at Once is among the best I’ve ever seen in a film. This is not just simple cuts of static dialogue, no, this is like the editing in an Edgar Wright film times 100. Some of the shots and cuts are so tight and fast but they feel so smooth. The edits don’t feel jarring or abrupt but instead, add a unique energy. Energy and sophistication that I have never seen executed so perfectly. One sequence in particular probably had close to 100 cuts in the span of 30 seconds. That’s absolutely insane. Editing can sometimes be hard to describe in writing, but trust me. Once you see the editing in this film, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The music is also incredible. The score was done by the band Son Lux; I was fortunate to attend an early screening of the film with a Q&A with the band. When asked about the scoring process, they mentioned that there was “no sacred line between sound and music.” The score for Everything Everywhere All at Once is both subtle and bombastic. There are moments where the music and sound blend together, but it’s unlike any score I can describe. There are even some great collaborations with artists like Mitski, David Byrne, Randy Newman, and Andre 3000 done for the soundtrack. On paper, this sounds very random, but trust me, it works. And that’s the most surprising and satisfying thing about Everything Everywhere All at Once: it works. This is a film that should not work; there are so many elements that no studio would dare attempt because it could be seen as too strange, too ambitious, or too confusing. But not only did the end product show a massive amount of care and passion, but this is a type of film that embodies and shows that there is so much more to be done with cinema. Sure, we get a lot of movies nowadays that are generic, unoriginal, or just plain garbage. But every now and then, we get a special movie like Everything Everywhere All at Once. A movie that changes the way we not only look at our own lives but shows new paths for more creative expression that can only be done through the power of filmmaking. This is living, breathing proof that it can still be done.

I hope I didn’t overhype it, but you absolutely need to go out and see Everything Everywhere All at Once. I’ve never seen anything else like it, and I implore you to support this film so we can get more original and ambitious stories like it. It’s a perfect blend of sci-fi, existentialism, comedy, family drama, and surrealism that made for one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen in a long, long time. This is not only another home run for A24 and Daniels, but it’s a new modern masterpiece that is indescribably special. This is why I love movies.


Matthew Huh liked this review