Everything Everywhere All at Once a romp through a parallel universe

Everything Everywhere All at Once

(US, 2022)
Directed by Daniel Kwan
and Daniel Scheinert

Review by Kate Roberts

I think Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan) says it best: “Everything is OK.” That may be so, Waymond, but what about everywhere? Everyone? Simultaneously? The movie with this year’s toughest title to remember, Everything Everywhere All at Once, is like walking in the ocean and meeting a sudden 20-foot drop-off. All was normal just seconds ago but now the world is full of half-baked coral and unblinking creatures, and my brain is water.

Remember the old days when every year had a theme to its movies, like pirates, superheroes, vampires or post-apocalyptic teenagers? Well 2022 is the year of the multiverse. Let your common sense go, free your mind and open your third eye to the possibility that another you in another world created another timeline by not reading this review.

Every life is rife with potential, but Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) can’t help feeling like hers has been squandered. She and her husband, Waymond, live above their dry-cleaning business and are currently struggling to file their taxes. The incessant judgement from her father, Gong Gong (James Hong), and rebellion from her daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), don’t help the stressful situation. Pleasing the IRS is Evelyn’s top priority – that is, until her useless husband seems to snap out of his uselessness on the way to their tax meeting and begs Evelyn to help him save the universe. Her day takes a very weird turn. Moments later, tired of the IRS agent Deirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis), Evelyn decides to do as her not-quite-husband requested and splits her existence in two: one is still pretending to listen to Deirdre while the other is in a janitor’s closet dodging an attack from not-quite-Deirdre. I imagine this is a pretty close description of how it feels to be audited.

What follows is a sprint through the building as not-quite-Deirdre hunts Evelyn down and not-quite-Waymond explains the intricacies of the multiverse. Parallel-universe movies are almost as hard to describe as time-travel movies, and Everything Everywhere All at Once is no exception. For example: Alpha Waymond comes from a universe that freely travels to other universes through extreme moments of embarrassment, and in doing so they disrupt the new universe’s copy identity to give the travelling imposter access to all of the copy’s skills – except, if you travel to too many universes, your brain overloads, and you either fry or turn into a supreme being who worships bagels and maims stuffed animals for fashion. Voila.

If you haven’t seen Everyone Every Time All the Wheres, I’m sorry, that’s the best summary that I can do. If you have seen it – this is a pretty accurate description, no? This film is batshit crazy. The trick to staying afloat is to just let go. If you think about it too hard or linger on a scene for too long, you will be lost forever.

But if you let the exposition flow and take the many, many action breaks to mentally catch up, you should be fine. What I deeply appreciate about Everything Everywhere All at Once (aside from being an original story) is that it’s told in real time. We follow Evelyn from her IRS meeting through the building as chaos breaks loose. When she jumps to another life, 30 seconds there are 30 seconds gone from her original space. This format helps us stay grounded – at least for chapter 1.

All the Things Everyplace Many Times takes place over three chapters: 1. Everything, 2. Everywhere, 3. All at once. The first chapter is mostly exposition as we study string theory while dodging attacks and learning kung fu. I’d say that chapter 1 is much heavier than the others (which is true for runtime), but chapters 2 and 3 are thick with content. Once we get the gist of who is where, Everything Everywhere All at Once serves up a massive plate of feelings. This movie is about potential, about skills, about good vs. selfish and about love. If The Matrix hooked up with Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library, their rebellious lovechild would be this movie. Relationships are different in every life, and Everything Everywhere All at Once doesn’t naively preach the concept that love transcends the multiverse. In some worlds, it does, but not all, and Evelyn gets the rare opportunity to explore which relationships mean the most to her, why and how they became that way. That is, when she’s not learning knife skills or expanding her lung capacity to stay alive.

When it’s not pushing the boundaries of philosophy or reviving the kung fu movement, Everything Everywhere All at Once exists to show off the best of Michelle Yeoh and stretch the laws of fashion. Evelyn picks up many skills from many lives, and essentially evolves into the badass, real-life Michelle Yeoh. Heck, statistically speaking in one life, Evelyn is Michelle Yeoh. But she isn’t the only gift to grace the screen; Stephanie Hsu is brilliant as Evelyn’s daughter, and her fashion choices are as much a reason to see this movie as anything else. Everything Everywhere All at Once is the multiverse movie to see this year. It’s thick on subject matter but surprisingly easy to follow (remember to just let go), and it always stops just shy of being too serious by throwing in something ridiculous.

Everything Everywhere All at Once should be taught in philosophy, ethics and physics courses alike. It’s definitely worth a watch at an 8.5/10.

Running time: 2 hours 19 mins
Showing in theatres

Kate Roberts grew up in the Glebe and is a movie addict who has been writing reviews since 2013. Her reviews can be found at plentyofpopcorn.wordpress.com.

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