Everything Everywhere All at Once Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
A dispirited mother, a desperate father, a depressive daughter, a sour IRS worker, a failing business and then… the opening of a multiverse into an entrancing but absolutely insane story!
Genre: Action / Adventure / Comedy / Drama / Science-Fiction
Director: Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert
Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Stepahnie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tallie Medel & James Hong.
Run Time: 139 min.
US Release: 25 March 2022
UK Release: 13 May 2022
German Release: 28 April 2022
So far the first two months of Spring have been revelations of cinema. While there have been some turds released, most of the new pictures have not simply surprised me, they blew me away! So it came to no surprise that this directing duo’s newest project, which apart from The Batman was one of my most anticipated movies this year, left me speechless. The Daniels’ prior release was the 2016s critically acclaimed Swiss Army Man, starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, which wasn’t one of my favourites! However, I did realise that they have a quirky element to directing and so couldn’t wait to see what they’ll bring next. So, with that said, let us talk about Everything Everywhere All at Once!
When an ageing Chinese immigrant’s private and professional life is falling apart, her life takes an unknown twist, as she is being drawn into a crazy adventure in which she alone can save the world, by exploring parallel universes connected to lives she could have lived.
If you think the summary sounds insane, it is! This bizarre picture fuses so many genres together; on paper, it should have been a failure from the beginning! However, Kwan and Scheinert are no typical directors, having an eye for the quirky, which really made this blend of different styles work! The narrative takes inspiration from so many different films, most notably The Matrix, as well as Chinese wuxia flicks, Yeoh’s life as a Chinese action star herself, and a very on the nose reference to Disney’s Ratatouille. However, it only borrows specific aspects to propel the story, never sacrificing its uniqueness!
At its core, Everything Everywhere is the basic exploration of the concept of life itself, including the meaning of nihilism and depression, all told through a family drama. The script contains a lot of heart, is funny, awestrucking, yet to my surprise also packs a lot of emotion. The tone switches unexpectedly between dramatic, comedic and action moments, never feeling inconsistent. This is a feel-good indie that provokes thought about one's own life and choices taken.
Let me say out front, all actors are displaying a wide acting range, as they are depicting several versions of their characters throughout the multiverse!
Michelle Yeoh, as the main character, gives what I believe is her best performance to date. A well established Chinese actress, who played different roles in well-known movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Crazy Rich Asians and later this year Avatar 2, not only proved to be able to give emotional renditions but is also a capable physical actress. She combines all her different talents in one powerful performance.
Primarily she is Evelyn Wang; a laundromat owner, wife to a sweet husband and mother to a troubled lesbian daughter. She feels dissatisfied with her choices in life and tries to please her disapproving father, who is very traditional orientated. I don’t want to say any more, as it is her path through multiple realities that opens up the plot.
Ke Huy Quan returns to the silver screen to play Evelyn’s husband Waymond Wang, after leaving acting in 1990. Just as Yeoh, he proved that he can make use of a wide span of emotions, switching seamlessly between personalities. He also brought good physicality for the action scenes to the set.
Stephanie Hsu as daughter Joy Wang was an absolute stand out. She had great chemistry with Yeoh; the mother-daughter dynamic makes the narrative so relatable, giving it a lot of heart. Joy is dealing with depression as her mother is not accepting her sexuality and girlfriend, played by Tallie Medel, which only deepens her nihilistic view on life on Earth. Hsu nailed every scene, selling those emotions.
Jamie Lee Curtis has a smaller side part but she was great as the IRS tax inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdra. She obviously had a lot of fun while filming. Finally, we have veteran actor James Hong, who portrayed Evelyn’s father Gong Gong. He is the catharsis for Evelyn - and subsequently Joy’s depression and unhappiness.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is an A24 indie film with Hollywood level effects, which is even more impressive once it was revealed that the team was only constructed of five people. The mix of visual and special effects not only emphasises the atmosphere of the story but also underlines the creativeness of the team, as they generated blockbuster-like looking scenes with rather simple methods and equipment. It is also worth noting that the production team made much more use of practical effects than one might believe.
The camera work and editing are amazing; captivating full action segments that were choreographed meticulously, simply to deflate the tension in the next scene by switching to a more picturesque setting to tell the emotional tale of two stones, or that of a middle-aged lesbian couple's love story, with literal sausage fingers. It is visually unconventional but made with so much love for the craft that it is simply joyful to watch, which also has to do a lot with the vibrant, strong colour palette!
Verdict: I recognize the creative brilliance behind Swiss Army Man even though it wasn’t my cup of tea, so I was looking forward to seeing what the directorial duo would come up with next! This little independent flick did not disappoint at all… In fact, it did surpass any expectations I had! From the emotionally gripping script to the astounding cinematography, the Daniels put their best into every fibre of this project. It is funny, dramatic and very relatable, the action sequences were brilliantly choreographed, while the sci-fi elements had some of the best effects I have seen. Michelle Yeoh and Stephanie Hsu are fantastic, yet I mostly enjoyed seeing Ke Huy Quan back on screen. Everything Everywhere is a transcendent experience and probably my favourite film of the year. It deserves a 10 out of 10!
With Dano acting in The Batman and now the newest picture of Kwan & Scheinert, I came to the conclusion that I should revisit Swiss Army Man to review it! Did you see Everything Everywhere All at Once? If so leave a comment with your thoughts and please subscribe! Thanks for reading!