Written by Jia Hui
Everything Everywhere All At Once is a Sublime Mess You Didn’t Know You Need
Everything Everywhere All At Once manages to be everywhere in everything, all at once. It becomes an amalgamation of your atypical dramedy-cum-science-fiction-flick, an ode to rift mother-daughter generational bonds and to top-notch kung-fu action.
We are introduced to the characters, who are, in one way or another, a mess to behold. Our main lead, Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), is being chased by an auditor while her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), is contemplating dissolving their collapsing marriage by seeking a divorce. Meanwhile, her lesbian daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), is left in despair while attempting to find ways to introduce her girlfriend to her traditional grandfather. Consequently, Evelyn is swept up in an insane adventure to save the world by connecting different versions of herself in the multiverse, finding herself in an even greater mess.
Even if the characters are what they are, they are oddly relatable. Perhaps why we’re able to identify with them is our ability to resonate with their brokenness by aligning it with our own intrinsic fractured-ness. It almost feels like a reassurance that we are not alone in our own fight.
The film is a breath of fresh air on so many levels. For one, the cinema was never silent for too long as it played audience to the many jabs and jokes injected by the top-notch slapstick comedy. The focus on kindness, empathy and courage is also a trinity we forgot we needed, least of all in a world as turbulent as this one.
Beyond that, what is beautiful is the film’s ability to capture worlds of possibilities with a seeming breeze. The multiverse can be alluring but its beauty is also fraught with thorny danger. Yet, it’s safe to say the directors, Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known collectively as the Daniels), navigate such a tricky feat with ease.
Some may argue that attempting to encapsulate everything into one film might be a tad too ambitious, possibly overstuffing it. After all, some films are all fluff but no buff. We’ve all been there, encountering films with excessive special effects and yet when distilled down to their bones, just like a supermarket plastic bag, its message is cheap and superficial. It is precisely what this film is not. Those films navigate “overstuffed” with crass but this one does so with class. At its heart, there exists a sincere, earnest message that is far from plasticky.
Nestled deeper within, the difficult dance of Evelyn and Joy’s relationship parallels the difficulty we sometimes face while connecting with our parents. The Daniels turns such hardship into something so beautiful that it tugs at our heartstrings. Even with such extensive special effects, the film goes beyond its extraordinary editing. These fraught bonds are often unexplainable to the mere stranger and yet in the film, it was pieced together in a way that made explaining unnecessary.
Asian films used to be few and far in between in Hollywood but with Crazy Rich Asians and Parasite blazing the torch in recent years and now Everything Everywhere All at Once joining them in the ranks, these trailblazers are paving the way for Asian cinema to enter the Western mainstream consciousness and marking a new era from what used to only be a flickering spark. Interestingly, it was exactly this trait that had left our main male lead, Ke, out of acting for the past 38 years. Though hard to tell given his sophisticated execution, this was actually his comeback role. His character successfully subverts stereotypical toxic masculinity, adding even fresher dimensions to the film.
In light of the recent hate waves against the Asian community, it becomes all the more meaningful to bear witness to a movie that affirms the struggles of Asian-American immigrants, all while garnering critical acclaim. Watch the film now to feel everything everywhere, all at once.
This review is published as part of *SCAPE’s Film Critics Lab: A Writing Mentorship Programme organised by The Filmic Eye, with support from the Singapore Film Society and Sinema.
About the Author: Jia Hui has a love-hate relationship with potatoes but thankfully, this is not the case for films. When not daydreaming about films, she can be found dreaming about her other loves, food & design. And yes, all while taking her gap year.
About the Movie:
Directed by: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, Jamie Lee Curtis, James Hong
Duration: 2h 20m
Language: Cantonese, Mandarin, English
When an interdimensional rupture unravels reality, an unlikely hero must channel her newfound powers to fight bizarre and bewildering dangers from the multiverse as the fate of the world hangs in the balance.