I feel like I’ve experienced both sides of how cinema can portray the multiverse concept in the space of two weeks. You have your popcorn film, safe bet with Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and then there’s Everything Everywhere All at Once by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively Daniels). If you have seen their previous work in Swiss Army Man, know they have an obscure sense of humour and vision. With that being said, if you thought that Swiss Army Man was crazy, Everything Everywhere All at Once is off the walls coocoo, and I love it.
Right off the bat, this film is one of those cinema experiences that you’ll never forget for a long time. Daniels welcome you into their collective minds with open arms. I’m absolutely staggered by the breadth of these directors’ minds, as the universes, we explore in this film range from the sensible to the downright weird, to those that could only exist in the context of the film. From one minute we’re in a universe where our lead has an acting career trajectory similar to Bruce Lee, and in another, people have hotdog sausages for fingers. Yeah, bizarre right, but in this oddball of a film where any reality is possible, it makes complete sense. This must have been such a fun script to write because the humour feels very close-knit and welcoming.
And let me tell you, with material like this, a lot is asked of the actors, even the ones who make one or two appearances. Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Quan Wang gives her most demanding performance since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. She is a mother and owner of a laundromat who has so many plates to spin her life like the relationship with her family and the business, from the moment we are introduced to her character, we can tell that this is someone who has a lot of stress in her life which is the cause of the distance between the people she loves. Ke Huy Quan, who many will know as Data in The Goonies and Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom who recently came out of acting retirement plays the father Waymond. What a comeback performance for him. For many years he has been working on films as a stunt coordinator and his eye for compelling action scenes rubs off in this film because whenever he is in a fight sequence, he is fantastically engaging. You’d have to be if you’re fighting off guards with a fanny pack.
The writing also juggled around a lot of concepts to which some of them stick their landing and some don’t depend on how open-minded you can be to something so bizarre. Generally, I felt that they all complimented each other and moving from one to the next it seamless. For instance, one such concept is reflecting on your moments in your life where you were learning skills that you gave up on, Evelyn calls upon other versions of herself who rode with a skill to help her in her own universe and the idea of that is one where Daniels experiment with a lot. I also love the message of being kind to one another when nothing makes sense anymore.
Daniels feel like magicians in this film. With excellent films, and even some masterpieces, you have one, two or three scenes where you are in complete awe with how it is filmed, but if like me you’ve seen an unhealthy number of films, you can have a good idea of how the filmmakers were able to make that shot look special. There are moments in this film where I am completely bamboozled, I do not know what these directors and cinematographer Larkin Seiple did or used to get some of the shots in this film. Normally I like to know how something is made, but in the case of this film, I don’t want to know.
I’d like to say that Everything Everywhere All at One is a completely unique experience, but I’d be lying in saying that the experience does have an aura of familiarity. It may be because of its timing with the release of the second Doctor Strange film, but also the fight sequences, you can tell they took inspiration directly from The Matrix films. But you’re never drawn to those conclusions because you’re already hooked by what it does originally.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is by far the most interesting experience I’ve had in a cinema this year, quite possibly ever. You know the phrase “there’s an app for that”? well in this film, it feels like whatever scenario you can think of “there’s a universe for that” such is the width of this story. The film’s take on nihilism is such a wild ride and such an experience that you can actually feel your mind expanding as you watch the story unfold. I think that this film will be discussed for decades to come, to the extent of how much film theorists talk about 2001: A Space Odyssey or Persona.
Final Result: 10/10 – Masterpiece
Have you seen Everything Everywhere All at Once? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Benediction