This is perhaps the most aptly-titled film ever made.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” stars Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang, a Chinese immigrant who discovers that she is the key to saving the multiverse.
The film also stars Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, Jamie Lee Curtis and James Hong, and is written and directed by Daniels, a duo comprised of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. The film is now playing in theaters.
Daniels made their names with “Swiss Army Man,” a film starring Daniel Radcliffe (of “Harry Potter” fame) as a farting corpse that could speak to a man stranded on an island (Paul Dano). That movie was praised for its special brand of heartfelt irreverence, and established the duo as names to watch in the film industry.
For the last six years, they have been working on “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” In an open letter to fans, Kwan stated that their goal on the film was “to blow [the audience’s] minds and change their lives forever.”
They have not only succeeded, but perhaps exceeded that goal. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is laugh-out-loud hysterical. It is desperately romantic. It is a tragedy that pulls on your heart strings. It is wonderfully hopeful. It is achingly beautiful.
It is one of the greatest movies I have ever seen, recency bias be damned.
Let’s just start with the performances. Every single actor brings everything they have to the film, portraying several different characters across different universes to great effect.
Yeoh is fantastic, both anchoring the film emotionally as well as providing a great presence in terms of the absolutely bonkers action scenes. The range that she displays in this film is truly a sight to behold, and this feels like one of those great performances that is destined for Oscar gold.
Quan is additionally compelling as Waymond Wang, Evelyn’s estranged husband reluctantly seeking divorce. His turn as a beaten-down, eternal optimist produces some of its finest moments, and it is truly a pleasure to see him back on the big screen after his 19-year hiatus.
Other players like Hsu, Curtis and Hong are extraordinary in their willingness to do anything that Daniels want out of them. Hsu in particular stands out for her ability to balance some of the more absurd moments in the film with a genuine pathos.
The most impressive thing about the ensemble is their ability to convincingly realize some of the most insane moments put to film in the last few years, which is one of the film’s biggest strengths in general.
Everything from the costume design to cinematography approaches perfection, if it is not already there. On a technical level, the film is simply brilliant, and it is just one of the many moving pieces that had to be balanced for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” actually works at all.
One of the much more unwieldy pieces, obviously, was the script. The six years spent on this film are obvious in the end product, which is one of the most blisteringly original pieces of art put to the screen in quite some time.
While it is definitely inspired by films like “The Matrix,” to call it like any of those films is kind of a disservice to “Everything Everywhere All at Once” because it invokes memories of those movies intentionally. It wears its influences proudly on its sleeves, and that’s okay, because the film is not only those influences, it is everything.
Evelyn and Waymond’s failing marriage makes it one part of a romantic drama. The fast-flying jokes, both juvenile and higher-brow, make the film feel like a screwball comedy often. There’s even some Wuxia-influenced action spread throughout the film.
The film cannot be categorized as one thing, and although that can be said about many other movies, there really has not been such an intricate, far-reaching fusion of genres in cinema.
With this much going on, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” runs the serious risk of overdoing its concept and derailing itself in the process. Luckily, Daniels have injected the film with a beating heart that it wears on its sleeves.
Although this is a movie about seemingly infinite topics, it has one main thing on its mind: the power of optimism. On the surface, it’s a seemingly simplistic theme. Obviously we should all be optimistic.
However, as we watch our protagonist travel through their infinite other lives, seeing what might have been, one thing becomes painfully clear: if there is a universe for every possibility, then none of what we do matters.
This feeling of pessimism hangs over the film for quite some time. We, as well as the characters, begin to dread the fact that our own concept of free will is little more than a lie we force ourselves to believe in.
In a dingy alleyway, two former lovers reminisce about the life they might’ve had while rain falls. A group of resistance fighters inevitably fall to their multiversal oppressor. Two sentient rocks remark upon how nice it is just to finally have some peace and quiet.
Daniels are not averse to the tragedies and shortcomings that befall every person. The difference is that they see things a different way, and by extension, so does Evelyn.
Where some may see nothing, Evelyn learns to see potential. Rather than a cosmic hopelessness, she decides to see hope. Maybe if there are infinite possibilities, it means there is always a way to find the one that satisfies you.
This simple realization takes her time and multiversal interference to discover, but once she makes it, the film reaches what can only be described as cinematic nirvana.
As Daniels guide us through the film’s almost impossibly expansive final hour, it is difficult not to be hit with tidal waves of emotion.
One moment will have you laughing hysterically, and the next you’ll be in tears. Despite this, there is never a tonal whiplash, which serves as the greatest testament to the directorial prowess on display from Daniels.
By the end of the film, it really feels as though some secrets of life have been unearthed. When I walked out of the theater, I genuinely felt as though I had gained a new perspective on life.
Even removing this profundity from the equation, the film is endlessly entertaining and works on so many levels as an action-comedy, a heartfelt family drama and a high-concept sci-fi thriller.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” redefines what I thought a movie could accomplish, and that feels like a feat that will be impossible to repeat. I began to wonder if it was even possible to make a film this unique and fresh ever again.
If I’ve learned anything from the film, though, the answer to that question is simple: we can only hope.