Of the infinite number of universes that theoretically exist, count yourself lucky to be in the one where you can watch Everything Everywhere All at Once. A delightfully chaotic amalgamation of genres, A24’s newest film builds on the idea of a ‘multiverse’ popularised by modern Marvel productions, but adds emotional depth and introspection not seen in traditional superhero blockbusters.
The film follows Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a disenfranchised Chinese immigrant who is unsatisfied with her life and feels disconnected from both her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) and daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu). However, when she is dragged into a war that spans multiple universes, Evelyn must try and save the world while exploring the lives she could have led.
While other films have explored the concept of alternate realities (most recently Spiderman: No Way Home, but also films like Looper and Edge of Tomorrow), Everything Everywhere All at Once feels unique because of the sheer scale of the narrative. Instead of a stereotypical ‘science-fiction adventure’, directing duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (aka ‘the Daniels’) have crafted a film that defies genre convention, incorporating elements of science-fiction, action, adventure, comedy, romance, and drama. While this may sound disorienting, a clueless Evelyn acts as a surrogate for the audience, learning about the cross-dimensional adventure at the same speed as us. Moreover, the screenplay is unapologetically absurd from the outset, with well-timed visual gags (a personal favourite is the universe where everyone has sausages for hands) alleviating any apprehension and reminding you to sit back and enjoy the wild ride for two hours.
Many of these unpredictable jokes feed into the fight sequences, with Evelyn and her foes having to first perform a multitude of ridiculous actions (e.g. eating a chapstick or licking a pole) to attain their combat abilities. These silly interjections heighten what are already incredibly entertaining action scenes and allow Yeoh to show off her sublime comic timing in conjunction with her celebrated martial artistry.
A quirky plot and frenetic action may draw audiences to Everything Everywhere All at Once, but it’s the gut-wrenching exploration of self-worth and family that sets it apart. From the opening scene, the Wangs are introduced as a fractured family unit. Evelyn cannot connect with her teenage daughter and is unhappy with how her life has turned out. These regrets are exacerbated when she travels to other universes and sees ‘better versions’ of her life if she had made different choices. Agonising over the ‘what-ifs’ and ‘almosts’ in life is something that everyone can connect with, and this is what makes Evelyn’s journey so touching. While the plot ticks along and characters come and go, the one constant thread in the film is Evelyn’s depression at having to ‘settle’ for her universe. It is only as the film nears its climax and she develops a stronger sense of self-worth that Evelyn begins to appreciate what she has and take responsibility for her mistakes. It’s a ‘hero arc’ with heart, and something we can all relate to.
Instead of a big, grandiose message, the Daniels chose to cap their ridiculous adventure with the reminder that “life is hard sometimes”. And there’s something beautiful about that. An early contender for movie of the year, I highly recommend this to any movie fans.
Article written by Jack Watson
Image courtesy of A24.
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