Nothing chokes the mind more than the feeling of wasted potential. I could have been this if I’d had the breaks. I could have done that if I hadn’t made these decisions. Stories about the multiverse – where every potential decision gets played out in an alternative reality – have gained traction lately due to the superb Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and the themes of Marvel’s latest output. Believe me when I tell you that Everything Everywhere All At Once delivers on its perfectly chosen name.
Whilst there are many things to praise about this film, and praise them I shall, I want to take the time up top to be so pleased for Michelle Yeoh.
Yeoh, who rose to fame in the 90s due in no small part to fluid fight choreography and dangerous stunt work (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon remains one of her best), is enjoying a resurgence of roles that do credit to her deep talents as an actor.
Crazy Rich Asians was more an ensemble piece, but in Everything Everywhere All At Once she leads from the front.
What Is Everything Everywhere All At Once About?
Yeoh plays Evelyn Quan Wang. Evelyn feels the pressure to spin all plates. An audit from the IRS threatens the existence of her laundromat business that she runs with her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan).
Her gay daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu) wants to bring her girlfriend to a party for Evelyn’s father (James Hong), but Evelyn refuses to acknowledge Joy’s sexuality in front of him, causing strain in the relationship.
Plus, her frantic organisation efforts have left Waymond feeling like divorce is the only way forward. That is, until Waymond suddenly changes personality and warns of an existential threat.
This new Waymond is from what he calls the ‘Alphaverse’, where a multiverse jumping technology allows people to access their alternative selves either by embodying them or borrowing their skills to use in a different reality.
The multiverse is at threat by Jobu Tupaki who is hunting down all the alternative Evelyns and Waymond must teach this Evelyn quickly how to access her other potential lives if she, and the universe, is to survive.
Everything Everywhere All At Once Official Trailer
Everything Everywhere All At Once’s initial tone can be summarised easily by the trailer, showing a yelling Yeoh’s face flicker through a multitude of changes from actor to hibachi chef to sausage fingers to a very sedimentary core.
The frenetic absurdism is a huge part of the draw. Once the concept is sold then blink and you’ll miss it editing snatches away one universe for another like a tumble dryer on nitro.
The experience of watching the film is like being strapped to an office chair and shoved down a flight of stairs filled to overflow with colourful delightful chaos.
All this style would be for naught if the characters had little to say. In amongst the madness is a story about family and intergenerational connections, all told from an Asian immigrant angle.
Jobu Tupaki’s connection to Evelyn speaks to the overwhelmingly different experience of life from an age perspective.
Is Everything Everywhere All At Once Worth Watching?
Much like the modern information overload, being able to see into all possibilities can strip away the meaning of the here and now.
The movie examines nihilism versus living in the moment admirably, even if such a sentiment is fast-forwarded by leapfrogging off of a few assumptions.
It’s telling that different aged audiences may likely empathise and identify more with the plight of different generations in the movie, which is a sign of true to life characters.
Yeoh is outstanding here and extracts so much emotion from a look or tone of voice. She undeniably acts as the movie’s anchor whilst simultaneously stretching herself in ways rarely possible throughout a career, never mind one film.
Quan’s return to acting after retirement due to lack of opportunities is welcome, and his shifts from down-and-out husband to slick action star are carried over beautifully.
Of all the cast Hsu has the least variety to work with, instead connecting with Yeoh in an inter-dependant relationship that enriches both performances.
At two and a half hours long Everything Everywhere All At Once threatens to outstay its welcome at times.
Writer / Directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert wisely appreciate you can’t go all out all the time, but the movie puts the brakes on heavily for the mid section and frequently gets laden with overwrought dialogue.
Family emotion is a rich subject to express on film, but the adage ‘less is more’ rings true for some scenes that are tied up in having to cover multiple universes worth of Evelyns, albeit that their thematic climaxes are thankfully satisfying.
Despite my statement at the start that multiverses have become the hot-button subject in comic book land, there is nothing out there anything like Everything Everywhere All At Once.
It is a glorious cacophony of causality that both gives life to alternative versions of yourself whilst also comforting you that any version of yourself would hit problems despite perceived wasted opportunities.
Hold on to the love, and express it for this gem of a movie.
Words by Mike Record