- Written and Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as “Daniels”)
- March 11, 2022 (SXSW) / March 25, 2022 (US)
While being audited by the IRS, a Chinese immigrant woman discovers she is at the center of the fight to stop a powerful being from destroying the multiverse.
What a bonkers movie! Everything Everywhere All at Once at times is ultimately silly and serious. It touches on things like meaning of life, identity, the weight of one’s past, family as well as love and regret. There is just so much here in a movie that on the surface looks like a cool blend of genres with great action.
One of the big elements-in fact the biggest-is the plot element of the parent repeating the mistakes of their parent. Michelle Yeoh is Evelyn Quan Wang, a Chinese immigrant and laundromat owner who left China with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) against her father’s (James Hong) wishes where Waymond and Evelyn have a daughter named Joy (Stephanie Hsu) whom Evelyn begins treating in much the same fashion as her father did her.
Movies where the parent makes the mistakes of their parents are a dime a dozen and often unimaginative as they tend to check off a list. As is the element where they break the cycle and everything becomes better or is just on a better path by the credits. In that Everything Everywhere All at Once is nothing new but what this does to make the message go down easier and just makes this a fun watch is that it wraps it all up in a genre mixing fate of the universe science fiction fantasy kung fu action film quite unlike anything that has been done before. Not only that but the movie itself uses the concept of the multi-verse in a rather unique way. This is everything Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness wished it could be.
Michelle Yeoh is fantastic as the woman at the center of the story. Like many of her characters she’s just an ordinary individual here. She has her regrets and in the story is thinking about the path not taken and being crushed by the stress of her life. In particular the relationship with her daughter. In the inverse of the norm, Evelyn is not the best of the best but rather the worst possible version of herself available. Evelyn is always looking at how things are not and it’s making her and it’s creating issues in her marriage.
And that is what makes her special to events. She is the worst possible version of herself that can be found and as such has untapped potential which can be used to stop the villain of the story Jobu Tupaki (also Stephanie Hsu). For Evelyn, in every other universe her choices have led to something better but here she finds herself with a failing business, failing marriage, and an ever increasingly distant daughter. While Evelyn’s mistakes with Joy are framed as the cause of all the issues, the mistakes of her father get addressed but are ultimately given a pass. Daddy gets some blame but these days all the blame would be heaped on him with done going to the individual doing it in the present. I give them credit for that.
One thing this movie does exceedingly well is use the silly to discuss the deeper. The MacGuffin of the story-a bagel with quite literally everything on it-allows them to discuss the self-destructive nature of Joy (did I just stumble onto something else?) but any other number topics like family or love or whatever too. The bagel itself is a weapon of sorts that threatens all reality.
Ke Huy Quan is oh so good as every version of Waymond. He plays three distinct versions here and makes each one unique yet with a connecting thread that you can see they are variations on the same character. The first we meet is Evelyn’s devoted, loving, and perhaps a touch of a dreamer husband. The second is Alpha Waymond who introduces Evelyn to the rules and ideas of the multiverse. The final is a Waymond that Evelyn did not run off to America with who, like her in that reality, became very successful because of that decision. He gives each one a loving quality that is essential to the character.
Evelyn for her part in each universe appears to be dissatisfied in her life. She focuses on what is not there or what is wrong. How much of this is influenced by the Evelyn we first meet is fuzzy. Michelle Yeoh, much like Ke Huy Quan, makes each version we meet unique yet connected. At the heart of her versions is the pressure she feels from her father whether he is there or not.
Kindness and love rather than anger and hate are also themes of this. Evelyn views herself as a fighter and her husband increasingly as weak but he views himself as a fighter too. His way of fighting is keeping a positive attitude and seeking the good and that lesson is ultimately what saves the day. While being strong, Evelyn must have the strength to truly love. This is even hinted at early on in the film.
Jamie Lee Curtis plays all versions of a character named Deirdre. She got a great deal of play in the marketing but was ultimately just a supporting character. Then again she is the only other big name here. Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, James Hong, and Tallie Medel as Joy’s girlfriend Becky were all at the minimum a touch more prominent than Curtis.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is just so meaty and much more than an action film with a very great idea. It’s so rich in visuals and themes and story that you could watch it a dozen times and come away with a dozen different viewpoints on it. And that’s quality filmmaking. It’s a movie about a family. It’s a movie about people. It’s a movie about how our choices affect so much. It’s a multiverse apocalypse type story. There’s just so much here.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a great action driven film with so much more than action to it. There is something for just about everybody here. This is most definitely a must see!