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Chelsea Daniel | May 2, 2022

I never expected to cry over a movie that included an alternate universe where people have sausages instead of fingers, Harry Shum Jr. is controlled by a raccoon (Ratatouille style), and the fate of the world rests on an “everything bagel”. But I did, and it happened to be one of the best movies I’ve seen in the past few years. 

Everything Everywhere All At Once is a multiverse movie about middle-aged mother Evelyn Wang (played by Kung Foo film legend Michelle Yeoh), who feels aimless and stressed in her life. To save the multiverse from the antagonist Jobu Topaki, the protagonist has to first amend her relationship with her husband (Ke Huy Quan), her dad (James Hong), and most importantly, her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu). Resentful of her mother, Joy has managed to master every single universe and is dominating them all to teach her mother a lesson whilst also becoming an empathetic villain. On what appears to be a spoof on Marvel (it is produced by the Russo Brothers and discusses terms like the ‘multiverse’) and the Kung Foo film genre referencing Yeoh’s own career, it is a very silly, humorous movie with a strong emotional core that’ll move anyone. 

Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, the film is split into three parts: 1. Everything; 2. Everywhere; and 3. All at Once. ‘Everything’ begins with a stressed Evelyn, overwhelmed by her personal life—her father has just arrived from China, her daughter is in a long term relationship with a woman, and her husband is considering divorce—as well as her financial life; she has to get her taxes audited. This opening is riddled with tension; Evelyn’s internal turmoil is externalised with expert shots and fast-paced zooms which are edited quickly. Each shot has a purpose, which in the age of “look at what I can do for the sake of it” directing, is refreshing to see.

In the middle of the tax auditors’ breakdown, played delightfully by Jamie Lee Curtis, Evelyn is pulled into another universe to talk to Quan’s character, Waymond, from the “alpha-verse”, about how she needs to save the world from the big villain: Jobu Tupaki. Here, the multiverse is introduced. Inter-dimensional chaos ensues as characters ‘universe-jump’ from their current body to their body in an alternate universe.

In all of the beautiful chaos that is the plot, it can be hard to keep track of what actually happens right until the satisfying ending. But the most important aspects are: Evelyn learns about who she is in other universes and who she could have become if she made different choices, specifically if she didn’t marry. Furthermore, as a result of pushing her daughter too hard in one universe to master the multiverse and universe-jumping, Joy has become a villain to try and find the mother who can universe-jump with her. It’s a story that tells us that Evelyn, whilst being aimless and unhappy with her life, has implicitly punished those around her, especially her daughter. And most importantly, it is told in a way that feels wholly original. 

In a world where every critic is wondering what will get people back to the cinemas, this film is surely the answer.   

For one, the performances are incredible. The supporting cast consists of Jenny Slate, Jamie Lee Curtis and Harry Shum Jr, and they do exactly what a supporting cast should do— add incredible flavour and warmth by assisting the story and supporting the leads. The leads themselves do an incredible job. Hsu and Quan act brilliantly in all of their different universe roles so the audience is fully aware of which universe character is being presented to them. And of course, Michelle Yeoh gives such an empathetic and warm depiction of her character that it’s almost impossible to not love Evelyn from Yeoh’s performance alone. 

Everything Everywhere All At Once is also breathtakingly funny, one you need to witness as a collective in the cinemas. The entire audience couldn’t go a minute without an incredible moment causing a ripple of laughter to break out within the cinema. One of the key ways a character can universe jump is by doing the most unthinkable thing they can think of. Some of these scenes involved buttplugs, eating chapstick and spanking. It seems ridiculous and unbelievable, and in any other movie, it would be. But whether it’s the witty sharp dialogue, the expert crafting, the high stakes, or the emotional relatable core underneath it all, this film is able to bask in its silliness without detracting from the central themes.

The attention to detail and craft is immaculate. There is a recurring motif of a black circle, a play of what is almost a ‘black hole of despair, which is often visible in mirrors, drawing circles, and even a giant floating bagel. It is delightful to spot and recognise. The villain Jobu Tupaki’s costumes are a character in itself; incredibly camp get-ups that immediately draw your eye.  Each set and universe is treated with care and shot in a way that leaves the viewer in awe, wanting to take in everything. 

And of course, it is just a great and relatable love story of a family. One of the main elements of the narrative is that the reason Evelyn is the ‘chosen’ Evelyn out of all of her possible lives in the multiverse, is because this is the universe in which she has accomplished the least in life. It is in this universe that she is the most stuck in life. Joy and Evelyn as a dynamic, even when it is in a make-believe ridiculous universe, is still as raw and real as a depiction of an estranged mother and daughter can be. And Waymond as a character, no matter how silly, is someone you want to give the world. And that is to the testament of the directors and the actors, that a film where Jenny Slate uses a puppy as a weapon can also be the same film that delivers the line “You know, in another universe, I would have liked just doing taxes and laundry with you.” 

There is so much to love about this movie, and so much to say. It is a film I wish I could watch for the first time over and over again. It is brilliantly crafted, incredibly funny and most importantly, a raw depiction of womanhood, motherhood and family. It has my whole heart.

Image Source: Fashionista

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Chelsea Daniel

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