Everything Everywhere All At Once review: a mind-bending masterpiece

Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All At Once - Cr. Allyson Riggs/A24
Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All At Once - Cr. Allyson Riggs/A24 /

Daniels’ Everything Everywhere All At Once is an expansive, mind-blowing film with a wicked sense of humor, unforgettable action, and a beating heart.

With just a month to go before Marvel takes their next big swing into exploring the concept of a multiverse with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, A24 has delivered their own, more offbeat interpretation of the vastness of the universe with Daniels’ genre-bending Everything Everywhere All At Once. Between the Matrix-inspired action set pieces to the bombastic costumes to the heartfelt rumination of everything from mortality to love, Everything Everywhere All At Once is a singularly momentous and unmissable exploration of the universe and everything it has to offer.

Starring Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Stephanie Hsu, the film follows Evelyn Wang (Yeoh), a mild-mannered laundromat owner who left her family in China to run away with then-boyfriend Waymond (Quan). Decades later, Evelyn and Waymond’s marriage is fraying and Evelyn is up to her elbows in stress trying to get her taxes done, but an unexpected appearance from an alternate universe version of Waymond throws her life into chaos, and Evelyn discovers she’s the key to defeating an interdimensional, multiversal evil.

There’s no denying that there’s a *lot* to unpack in Everything Everywhere All At Once – even though it moves at a rip rocket pace, the nearly two and a half hour runtime still is just barely able to pack in all of the concepts and narrative quirks being explored – which makes for a viewing experience that’s always active and interesting, sometimes bordering the point of overwhelming dizziness. Thankfully, the filmmakers seem to very clearly understand the scope of their story and what it asks of the audience, so though they don’t ever dumb things down or compromise creativity, Evelyn is just as befuddled as the audience is, which makes her the perfect insert character to help explain some of the more overwhelming moments.

When all the (admittedly dazzling) visual frills and aesthetic quirks are taken away, though, Everything Everywhere All At Once is a relatively simple concept: what would your life be like if you made different decisions during key choice moments during your life? At first, the concept is explored in the knee-jerk, fun-and-games manner: Evelyn discovering skills she might’ve picked up had she become a gymnast, a martial artist, or a hibachi chef – leading to some truly memorable fight scenes with all three leads in the film’s first hour.

As the film progresses, though, Daniels also explores what the different choices Evelyn could’ve made mean for her relationship with her family – though Waymond is good-hearted and optimistic, he’s pained by the lack of love in their relationship, and serves Evelyn with papers in the first act. Throughout her multiversal adventure, Evelyn can see versions of her life where she didn’t follow Waymond to America – a life where she turns out rich and famous but is lacking the joy and connection she initially had with Waymond.

The other major relationship of Evelyn’s is with her daughter Joy (Hsu). Joy is a lesbian, much to her mother’s discomfort, and Evelyn’s reluctance to embrace her daughter’s sexuality (or even tell Joy’s grandfather that she’s queer) has put a strain on their relationship. As she delves deeper into the multiverse, Evelyn realizes that she isn’t the only member of her family with the ability to access abilities from other possible lifetimes – her daughter Joy is the villain she’s been called to defeat, having been driven mad by all the power and knowledge from the universe.

The alternate-universe Joy is without question Everything Everywhere All At Once‘s most dynamic character – from her bombastic (and frequent) costume changes to her terrifyingly dry sense of humor, she makes for a visually dazzling villain, and the perfect antagonist to a hero who can access almost any ability of power she needs. Beyond aesthetics, though, having an alternate version of Joy as the film’s primary antagonist also allows the film to explore some heavy subjects and resolve the tension between mother and daughter in a thoroughly unorthodox but still incredibly emotional manner.

What’s wonderful about the Evelyn/Joy relationship is that they aren’t just boiled down to one issue – they not only struggle over Joy’s sexuality, but also about their generational differences, Evelyn’s failing relationship, their dynamic with Evelyn’s father, and their similar nihilist attitudes towards life. It’s mind-bending how effortlessly Everything Everywhere All At Once can touch on so many heavy subjects and questions without ever coming off as half-baked or surface-level: the film is genuinely addressing a baker’s dozen of major questions and doing so with originality, heart, and creativity.

Underneath all the high-flying (surprisingly brutal) violence, the colorful costumes, the bizarre characters, and the endless narrative opportunities, though, is a heartfelt attitude towards uncertainty – urging the viewer not to let themselves be limited by their past, and to move forward with love not just for others, but also themselves. Ke Huy Quan’s soft-spoken Waymond perfectly encapsulates the film’s spirit of joy and love, and though he may not be as suave or capable in a fight as some of the alternate versions of Waymond we meet, he’s still somehow the film’s heroin Evelyn’s hour of need.

Though the sheer scale of insanity may put some viewers off of Everything Everywhere All At Once, don’t let the chaotic aesthetic scare you away: the film is without question one of the best of 2022: a dazzling mixture of action, drama, comedy, and heartfelt warmth. Thanks to three stellar lead performances from Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Stephanie Hsu, and bolstered by the Daniels’ eye for visuals and creative sensibilities, Everything Everywhere All At Once is an unforgettable odyssey you’ll want to see on the biggest screen possible.

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