‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ is the best multiverse film ever
JP Spoonmore | Wednesday, April 13, 2022
When the word ‘multiverse’ pops into your head, you probably imagine the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) or, more specifically, movies like “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse.” But what if I told you we could go deeper than just superheroes and aliens? What if you had the chance to see every possibility, every consequence of every choice you ever made? What if you not only could see those branches in your life, but you could live inside them and adopt those hypothetical memories as your own? These are the questions raised in A24’s experimental hit, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Outside any caped cameos, I think this film did a better job than the MCU ever could.
I cannot emphasize enough that “going in blind” is the best experience for this film. Even so, I will give some basic background so that you have a sturdy foundation before security guards start turning into pinatas and rocks contemplate existentialism. This multiversal chaos centers on Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese immigrant who owns a laundromat and is struggling with her marriage, family expectations, a rebellious daughter and — worst of all — taxes.
The movie’s narrative focus is personal and consumable. Its “scale,” though, is bigger than reality itself. Yes, the universes and kung fu fighting both serve as metaphors for generational trauma, but unlike other action films that force it in for a bare minimum story, this film makes these elements the actual catalyst for its armageddon.
The smartest choice that directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert made when they wrote this film was splitting it into two chunks: the multiverse we all know and love and the hidden layer of potential beneath. The first half is an electric blast of quirky fight sequences and goofy characters. The second half is one of the most hopeful, heartfelt stories I have seen in a long time.
Where other stories of family trauma tend to focus in on a single, generational divide, this story sees Evelyn juggling conflicts with both her judgmental father and depressed daughter. We constantly see where Evelyn’s choices cause her older and younger family members to oscillate between happiness or suffering in life. Language barriers and unacceptable lovers drive each character’s cultural isolation into bursts of hatred and regret. Through all of the wackiness shown on screen, the tragic authenticity is what elevates this story past its competitors.
Evelyn’s daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), has an especially difficult subplot, one which sees her struggling with the meaninglessness of the world. She reduces everything to statistical probabilities, analyzing any heartfelt apology or shattering failure into numbers on a board. Her self destruction is a hard watch when Evelyn’s helping hand only makes it worse. Thankfully, the duo’s climax is a fantastic montage of music, imagery and comedic action that encapsulates the universal importance of family support in our hardest times. Joy’s subplot is vital to shifting the film away from the cliche, universe-jumping action flick that it first appears to be. Once her side of the story emerges in Part II, the facade of formulaic action drops to let the family drama take center stage.
After the emotional climax reaches its peak, the film regains a sense of stability that honestly dulls viewer satisfaction. The resolution provides an additional note of hope, but I think those extra minutes slow down too much compared to the breakneck insanity of the previous two parts. I still appreciate it being there even though it breaks the exhilarating half life I would’ve had leaving the theater.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is the kind of film that surprises you in every way. Fun, heartfelt, hopeful and nihilistic, the story stands apart from any other multiverse concept. It realizes the truest potential a multiverse conflict can be: a struggle of hope against regret. Evelyn could be anything with the press of a button, yet she chooses to stay connected to her own mistakes because they make her who she really is. The suggestion that one’s identity grows from their past makes this film more than just an action flick, endowing it with a message that everyone should hear.
Title: “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, James Hong
Director(s): Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
If you like: “In the Mood For Love,” “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse”
Shamrocks: 4 out of 5