‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ – Review

Everything Everywhere All At Once is a modern masterpiece and a film that perfectly speaks to our times.

This review contains spoilers for the film.

Everything Everywhere All At Once is an action film, an absurdist comedy, a multiverse sci-fi flick, and a family drama that deals with themes of existentialism, clinical depression, immigrant life and generational trauma. In theory, those pieces would never come together in a cohesive way, and yet I truly believe that Everything Everywhere All At Once is a modern masterpiece and a film that perfectly speaks to our times. 

From the get-go, writers and directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (also known as “the Daniels”) put us directly in the mindset of our protagonist Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese immigrant running a laundromat with her overly optimistic husband, Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan). The opening moments are quick and almost stressful as we see the deeply stressed Evelyn trying to get her taxes done in time for her audit, manage her laundromat business, cook for her disapproving father Gong Gong (James Wong) who is now under Evelyn’s care, and set up for the party she’s throwing for Chinese New Years. And on top of all that, Waymond is trying to muster up the courage to divorce Evelyn, and their daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is struggling with her mother’s lack of approval of her girlfriend.

It isn’t too long before the film jumps us into a multiverse adventure, which kicks off in the midst of Evelyn and Waymond’s tax audit, where a version of Waymond from an alternate universe (the alpha-verse) tasks our main version of Evelyn with potentially saving the many multiverses against an evil being named Jobu Tupaki, who we eventually learn is the alpha-verse version of Joy. Once the high-stakes sci-fi plot kicks in, the Daniels take us on a journey with a very unique and specific vision throughout. The fight choreography is quick but never choppy. The humour is silly, but never feels like it’s low-brow humour for the sake of low-brow humour. And everything is in service to the story the Daniels want to tell and however you may feel about this film, it’s hard not to be impressed by the originality on display here.

Evelyn feels like the role Michelle Yeoh was born to play. Yeoh portrays each alternative version of Evelyn as an entirely different person with their own personality. Whether it’s a martial arts movie star who is emotionally isolated version of Evelyn, or a lesbian Evelyn with hot dog fingers version, none of them feel like the same person and that’s all kudos to Yeah’s range. The main version of Evelyn that we follow is one that is clearly dissatisfied with the way her life turned out. This film is brutally honest about the meaninglessness of life. Evelyn is a woman whose life has gone the opposite of what she had planned, and through interactions with Jobu Tupaki, she realizes just how pointless it all was and how life leads to nothing.

The Daniels uses the absurdity of the multiverse as a metaphor for our current times. We live in a time of information overload, where it truly feels like everything is happening all at the same time. It can result in us feeling small, especially in the middle of an ongoing global pandemic and an increasingly grimmer political landscape. Jobu Tupaki is able to access every single universe at the same time, and assures the already-lost Evelyn that the answer is that all is meaningless, which is initially a relief for Evelyn – that all her failures and path’s she didn’t take don’t mean anything – and eventually she buys into Jobu’s ideology and plan.

As bleak as that sounds, Everything Everywhere All At Once is far from cynical. In fact, it acts as a pure antidote to cynicism and nihilism. Jobu Tupaki argues that life is a series of heartbreak after tragedy with little moments where anything makes any sense; however, it’s through the effortlessly lovable Waymond, whose optimistic view of life initially was viewed as pathetic in Evelyn’s eyes, where a new outlook is found. Life having no purpose doesn’t automatically mean that life isn’t worth living. It means we can find our own meaning in our meaningless existence, and that starts with a little bit of kindness, “especially when we don’t know what’s going on.”

One of the best ways Daniels are able to display this message of kindness is through the family dynamic, namely though the relationship between Evelyn and Joy. In the Alpha-verse, Evelyn pushed Joy’s “verse-jumping” to the point where she’s in the state we meet Jobu Tupaki, but in the main universe, Evelyn is constantly pushing her daughter with small insults and clear disapproval. A lot of Evelyn’s behaviour towards her daughter stems from her relationship with her own father, who disowned her when she immigrated to America with Waymond. Everything Everywhere All At Once makes a clear statement about generational trauma and how clinical depression can stem from it. Seeing Evelyn eventually break that cycle and embrace her daughter correctly (and save her at the same time) is amongst the hardest I’ve cried all year.

Everything Everywhere All At Once throws a lot you, and purposefully makes you feel a little overwhelmed at times. But that’s all in service of a plot and vision that complement a story of an adventure through the multiverse, a broken family being fixed, and choosing kindness over giving up. Everything Everywhere All At Once is a hilarious, inventive and beautiful film, and one that I truly believe I will never forget. 

Grade: A+

Oscars Prospects:
Nominated: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Michelle Yeoh), Best Supporting Actor (Ke Huy Quan), Best Supporting Actress (Jamie Lee Curtis, Stephanie Hsu), Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Costume Design
Should Have Been Considered: Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects

Where to Watch: VOD

Adriano Caporusso
Critic and journalist student from Toronto, Canada
Favorite Actor: Brendan Fraser
Sign: Taurus

13 responses to “‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ – Review”

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