Review: Everything Everywhere All At Once
Rarely does a picture come along that truly amazes you with its originality, as well as heart to match. Often artistic films can emotionally distance in their stringent use of technique to captive an audience. And more emotionally available films feel like well-trodden ground. Yet with Everything Everywhere All At Once, the Daniels have managed to achieve an incredible feat of creating a truly unique film that has such a strong emotional center that you’re left in tears multiple times.
The film’s multiverse antics are odd to describe as unique when two different superhero films in the past months and coming month both have multiverses as a central feature. Further, the film proudly wears its wuxia influences on full display. Yet the Daniels eschew the typical comic-book fare with a more bonkers, off-the-wall approach to the subject.
Michelle Yeoh stars as a laundromat owner alongside her friendly nerdish husband when the IRS is auditing them. Her life feels downtrodden and hopeless and as Jamie Lee Curtis‘s auditor drolly goes over expenses spent on Yeoh’s various attempts at hobbies attempting to be written off, we get a nice picture into her desires.
Like many a hero story, excitement enters her life as she is approached by an alternate universe version of her husband and is told that she is “the one” needed to stop a chaotic multiverse-spanning threat and must access the skills of her alternate selves to fight off that evil. For all of the introductory material about this film’s uniqueness, I’ve just described one of the most commonly used tropes in fiction.
Yet the Daniels masterfully take these tropes and flip them around on their head. Everything Everywhere All At Once is a film totally unafraid of going off-the-wall bonkers, truly envisioning a wide expanse of a multiverse. Their quirky humor, shown to some degree in their prior work, Swiss Army Man, is given even more room to breathe here and feels matured from that film. There are still certain lewd moments in this film, but the humor here gets truly wacky and creative as well.
The film’s aforementioned heart also guides the wackiness and grounds it. The film becomes a philosophical debate of sorts on nihilism versus positivism and about the need to continue to find joy in living. It’s a film about caring for others, symbolized in the “googly” eyes you seen in the trailers.
And its true center, the film is about a mother-daughter relationship and how the wounds of the past can sometimes fester and damage future relationships. Characters working through these issues feels handled in a truly genuine manner and tugs at your heartstrings intimately by the end.
Yeoh is fantastic in the lead role, skilled at leaping between moments where she has to be gritty or sarcastic and moments of true tenderness. Props also go out Stephanie Hsu, who plays Yeoh’s daughter and also has quite a bit of acting ground to cover in her performance. She does so with great skill and is entertaining onscreen throughout.
There are moments where Everything Everywhere All At Once wears its heart a little too boldly on its sleeve. The script occasionally jams its humanism down our throats. There’s also a big chunk in the middle of the film where it feels like the film is treading water and repeating goofy action scenes over and over with no real sense of progression.
But when the film’s final thirty minutes come around, the movie truly shines. I teared up multiple times throughout, both from the great emotions I felt and the uncontrollable laughter pouring out of me. It’s a criticism trope to say one laughed and cried at a piece of art. Yet, I can’t think of a film that better incapsulates it than this one. The Daniels have delivered one of the great masterpieces of 2022 already. The rest of the year’s releases had better watch out.