Review: “Everything Everywhere All At Once” Dares to Push Film Beyond its Limits

Unafraid to experiment with an array of mediums, genres, and ideas, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” excels in its creative, abstract exploration of a supposedly simple set of themes; this convergence of unadulterated chaos and grounding messages allows the movie to execute a playful narrative maintaining a sense of relatability and empathy. Directed by Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan—officially known together as the “Daniels”—and released on March 25, the movie follows laundromat owner Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) whose unremarkable life with husband Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan) and daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) leaves her regretful and disappointed. When she is swept into a multiversal journey against an unstoppable threat, Evelyn begins to not only realize her role as an interdimensional ‘hero,’ but also re-evaluate her role in the infinite universes. Caution: spoilers ahead.

What makes “Everything Everywhere All at Once” stand out against the sundry of existing ‘multiverse’ media is its boldness in execution and presentation. Interdimensionally in popular media has always been somewhat convoluted—it is used either as a plot device to bring back beloved characters or as a way to pander to the nostalgia of science fiction fans, all the while grossly misinterpreting the trope. Contrarily, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” does not fall into this trap; instead, it realizes the archetype to its full potential. The movie does not limit itself by trying to conform to the generic “multiverse” plot line—instead, it experiments with humorous tones alongside a more serious atmosphere. A perfect example of this occurs in one universe where a raccoon controls a chef’s hair by pulling it Ratatouille-style; another equally entertaining instance, realistic imagery is replaced with crayon-like drawings of our characters. Letting their imagination run free, the creators take the idea of infinite possibilities to the next level; the Daniels duo succeeds in creating a memorable and refreshing take on the science-fiction genre, as they never forget that this concept can be fun and exciting above all else.

While the outlandishness of “Everything Everywhere All At Once” can get overwhelming, especially in the way certain sci-fi elements were presented, the movie’s key selling point is not just its new interpretation of the multiverse, but also its timeliness to today’s audiences.
There are specific cinematography and writing choices that clearly reflect recent trends and popular cultural phenomena, such as the music video-inspired action fights and relevant themes of generational differences.

The crux of the movie’s narrative is that the main antagonist is Evelyn’s daughter Joy, or Jobu Tupaki, whose omnipresence in the multiverse causes her to adopt the nihilist belief that life is meaningless—when you finally get to see everything and anything, you begin to realize how insignificant you and your current decisions are. Once Evelyn also becomes all-encompassing, she too almost falls into the overwhelming despair that Joy once succumbed to: the realization that every failed chance and wrong choice has led to the miserable life that she is in and that even the smallest of changes could have made her life infinitely better. But while this realization is what made Joy feel defeated, Evelyn was able to find meaning within her life. “Nothing matters,” Evelyn says at the climax of the film while hugging Joy in their sweet reunion; she begins to understand that if nothing truly matters amongst the infinite could-have-beens and would-bes, then it is all the more important to place value in your choice, in your current reality. The complex question of nihilism the movie examines sees the conclusion that you have to do with what you have—be that a dad, a mom, a significant other, or a rock.

To capture the eyes and attention of all, Daniels creates an amalgamation of sharply constructed humor, entertaining action, mind-bending sci-fi and poignant drama. The comedy varies from as unapologetic as butt-plugs to all encompassing bagels, yet the film also clearly knows how to hit the audience where it hurts. The theater audience laughed consistently throughout but turned quiet and mellow in moments of tender honesty. “Everything Everywhere All At Once” shows that a movie doesn’t need to be taking itself seriously to resonate emotionally with its audience. These different elements are working coherently, in controlled chaos, because as the title suggests, the movie is everything, everywhere, all at once. 5/5.