Everything Everywhere All at Once

Everything Everywhere All at Once is an unparalleled experience

“In a cinematic landscape haunted by board-room decisions and algorithmic calculations, this film feels impossibly fresh.”

Before Everything Everywhere All at Once gives way to universe-collapsing maximalism, the film establishes anxious pacing. Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) sorts through receipts in her apartment above the family-owned laundromat. The family is being audited, but it’s also the Chinese New Year, her husband is trying to present her with divorce papers and it’s another bustling work day. As the first chapter card, “Everything,” appears on the screen, a sense of dread has already set in. Without any character having to say it, we feel the weight of responsibility and obligation as entirely insurmountable. How could this have been the life Evelyn imagined?

As Evelyn makes her way toward a government office to speak with an auditor, reality slowly begins to collapse. Her husband, the soft-spoken Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), suddenly becomes possessed and advises her to detour toward a janitor’s closet. She’s confused and frustrated and ignores him. Throughout this scene, though, as the overwhelming “everything” starts to get the better of Evelyn, she begins to imagine herself in that closet. As she finds herself there, her husband — who she soon learns is a Waymond from a parallel universe — explains that they’re all in grave danger and the fate of the multiverse rests in her hands. 

What follows is a bombastic, heartfelt, absurd, obscene!and completely over-the-top action-adventure film. Evelyn learns to tap into the skills of alternate versions of herself, becoming an expert-martial artist one moment and the next, using her sausage fingers to escape handcuffs. The film’s bonkers visual identity not only features surreal actions and images but adopts an expressionistic and quick-paced editing style. In stark contrast to many large-budget set-piece-oriented films, the movie embraces the full range of cinematic craft to express the emotional throughline of the film.

Despite being fragmented and potentially confusing, the film roots itself in well-constructed character building. Even as different characters are torn between alternate selves, they remain integrally the same, gripped by similar doubts and experiences but reaching and achieving different goals. For the actors, they balance a careful tightrope — finding grace in absurdity and pain in superstardom. The film’s real success hinges on their emotional grounding and ability to reconcile their fragmented selves. If the film is winning over audiences, it’s not just for its inventiveness and boldness. It’s the emotional core that provides a strong foundation for the rest. 

Everything Everywhere All at Once examines the idea of both infinite possibilities at our disposal and the richness of familial acceptance. As Evelyn faces the idea that she may be the “worst” Evelyn in all the universes, she has to reconcile with all the divergent choices that led her to the place she’s in now. While her other selves rejected youthful romances or dedicated their lives to a specific set of skills, they all face the struggle of living and loving. As the film develops, Evelyn’s FOMO begins to transform as it becomes abundantly clear that personal fulfillment grows out of love and acceptance rather than material success. 

Everything Everywhere All at Once

In a cinematic landscape haunted by board-room decisions and algorithmic calculations, Everything Everywhere All at Once feels impossibly fresh. It bursts with spontaneity and love. It’s a brilliant and stereotype-bursting look at what it means to grow as an immigrant in America, turning the specificity of the Chinese immigrant experience into something wholesome and aspirational without ironing out complexity. The film examines the hard lines of adapting to a rather unwelcoming society by focusing on moments of grace and community. The movie doesn’t hinge its power on the potential of the American dream but showcases the resilience of surviving within a system that is often unforgiving.

The Daniels have announced themselves as filmmakers creating an unparalleled piece of work within “mainstream” Hollywood cinema. This is an extraordinary film that will undoubtedly inspire a new generation of filmmakers to take risks and think outside expectations. It’s a truly divine experience that will make you laugh and cry and stick with you long after the credits finish rolling. ■

Everything Everywhere All at Once, directed by Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert

Everything Everywhere All at Once is playing in Montreal theatres now.


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