Film Review: Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)

In a modern cinematic landscape bombarded by sequels, re-quels, remakes, reboots, and rip-offs, there isn’t as much space for artistic freedom in the medium as one would hope. The newest film from directing duo ‘Daniels’ (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), Everything Everywhere All At Once, certainly wears its influences on its sleeve; The Matrix, especially, is an apt comparison to make between the two, and one that I’m sure many viewers will feverishly jump to draw. But for all its little nods to existing properties (Kill Bill, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Ratatouille, to name a few more) AND its trend-following look at the concept of a multiverse, Everything Everywhere stands out as a truly unique and incomparable use of the cinematic medium. 

Kwan and Scheinert are no strangers to creating unique films. Their fantastical debut effort, 2016’s Swiss Army Man, boasted a plot where Paul Dano survives his stranding on a desert island using the multi-tool of a deceased body played by Daniel Radcliffe (WILD movie… highly recommend). For their sophomore collaboration, Daniels take audiences into the tumultuous world (or worlds) of Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), the owner of a failing laundromat and the member of a failing family, with a daughter she is constantly at odds with and a husband who, unbeknownst to her, wants a divorce. 

Yeoh, whose name, I kid you not, autocorrected to ‘Michelle YEAH’ as I write this, evidently deserves such a complimentary typo. Her performance as Evelyn feels truly all-encompassing of her acting talent; she’s funny, badass, heartfelt… oftentimes all at once. Joining Yeoh in the cast are James Hong as Evelyn’s stubborn father; Stephanie Hsu and Ke Huy Quan as her distant daughter and squirrelly husband, respectively; and Jamie Lee Curtis as Deirdre, a greasy IRS inspector. It’s worth noting that since Everything Everywhere deals with alternate versions of the world and the characters that populate it, every cast member plays at least two different versions of themself throughout the film, not only discernably but delightfully. 

If that sounds a bit ambitious, strap in, ’cause we’ve got a long way to go yet. Everything Everywhere enters the multiverse and enters it HARD; It doesn’t dip into this pool of possibility just for laughs (although there are plenty of those to be had along the way). No, the film provides audiences with a chaotic and bizarre look at what ‘possibility’ becomes when you take away the rulebook: In one universe, Evelyn rejected her husband and now succeeds as a world-renowned martial artist; in another, humans never existed and so Evelyn’s consciousness resides in a nearby rock who can speak with subtitles; and in another, an alternate cut of the film “Everything Everywhere All At Once” plays in a jam-packed theater (the film exists within itself). These erratic yet intentional looks at the possibilities also come complete with changes in music and aspect-ratio. 

A universe that stands out in particular is one where humans have hot-dog-shaped fingers on their hands, and have gotten very good at using their feet to do things like play piano. This hot-dog-fingered universe is home to the aforementioned reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and shows a ground of pre-human primates with these same fingers bludgeoning to death a primate with normal fingers. I love this SO much; it works as a cheeky reference, it works as an absurdist gag, it works as a commentary on how living things inherently discriminate and abuse minorities and those considered ‘different,’ and it works as a profound reminder that words like ‘different’ and ‘normal’ are completely relative anyway. 

One of the most difficult tasks the film sets for itself is in its attempt to find value in a universe that constantly insists nihilism is the answer, or as it’s put in the film, “Every new discovery is just a reminder… we’re all small and stupid.” In approaching its analysis of life and meaning, Everything Everywhere skips the nihilistic gloom of “nothing matters, so there’s no point” and instead seems to suggest that nothing matters, and that’s what’s so beautiful… that we exist and build and love and continue to exist and build and love even in the scope of grand insignificance. 

It’s easy to write off as “just another multiverse movie” or “this generation’s Matrix,” but Everything Everywhere stands out as groundbreaking in its own right. It’s one of the most bizarre, most mind-bending, most hilarious, and most touching films to be released in a long time. Trying to make sense of every plot detail will likely result in an aneurysm, so it’s better to sit back and take in the pure beautiful chaos smattered across the screen.

Overall rating: 9/10

Published by Jeremy Bader

Aspiring writer, film and music lover, drummer.

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