Everything Everywhere All at Once movie review:
A deep dive into Daniels' martial arts wonderland
By Timothy Leung
The movie “Everything Everywhere All at Once” certainly lives up to its title. Watching the film is like experiencing a fever dream in the most chaotic and cinematic way possible. Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, also known as the “Daniels” the film is centred around the seemingly ordinary life of immigrant mother Evelyn Wang, played by the talented Michelle Yeoh. The film starts off by inviting the viewer into Evelyn’s world, which is riddled with the never-ending task of doing taxes, running a laundromat business and wrangling the strained relationship with her daughter Joy, who has a girlfriend named Becky. At a glance, the mundane task of doing one’s taxes and endless laundry might not sound so exciting, but the magic happens when the film throws all plausibility aside and takes the audience on a next level multiverse experience.
At the beginning of the film, Evelyn is doing everything in her power to maintain her family relationships and keeping the laundromat business afloat with her husband Waymond, portrayed by Ke Huy Quan. Despite her efforts, the pressure from an IRS (Internal Revenue Service) audit, a crumbling marriage, and a visit from her disapproving father ultimately unravels Evelyn’s life into utter chaos. The relationship between Evelyn and her teenage daughter Joy, played by Stephanie Hsu, takes centre stage, as the pair continue to deliberate on the consequences of Joy’s growing queerness and her desire to introduce her girlfriend to Evelyn’s father.
The story eventually takes a cosmic turn for Yeoh’s character as she is given multiverse-jumping technology and embarks on a martial arts face off against Deirdre, an antagonistic IRS inspector played by the hilarious Jamie Lee Curtis and essentially everyone else that exists in the multiverse. Yeoh is in her element during these battle sequences and showcases her martial art roots. As if the reality bending confrontation between Yeoh and Curtis isn’t thrilling enough, Quan’s character Waymond also showcases some iconic Kung Fu stunts in the IRS office using his own waist bag, certainly a very unique weapon of choice. The fight scenes were skilfully choreographed by Andy and Brian Le, who effortlessly infuse a wacky and comedic sense of style into the action sequences, creating a spectacle for the audience.
The story gets complicated as the stability of the multiverse is at risk because of a rather familiar looking and power hungry entity called Jobu Tupaki. Evelyn must defeat this dark agent and go on a multiverse jumping quest and live through different versions of herself in parallel universes, uncovering her hopes, choices, failures and her love for her family. The film also unveils some cinematic brilliance and Alice in wonderland level bizarreness, as Evelyn travels between different universes. A personal favourite is the universe where humans possess wobbly hot dog for fingers! Yeoh’s performance is utterly captivating, as she plays her role with immense rawness while maintaining excellent comic timing, which allows her audience to sympathise with her character on a deep human level. Stephanie Hsu’s also showcases a strong performance of her character joy, as she carries the heavy burden of dealing with her family’s generational trauma and the pressure to succeed and live up to Evelyn’s expectations.
Yes, the film often becomes overwhelming and discombobulated at times with all the multiverse jumping scenes. However, amidst all the drama, comedy and action, the main takeaway from this film is that love, acceptance and compassion is the greatest weapon to combat the darkest chaos that spills out in life. The audience is able to witness the trials and tribulations of an immigrant mother struggling to make ends meet and raising a daughter who is discovering her sexuality. At its core, the film shines light on the struggles of navigating a generational gap and the value of queer identity and family acceptance. Evelyn represents a character that is often overlooked in society and the film reminds us of the importance of showing a little kindness and understanding, particularly during times of difficulty, as everyone is fighting a battle of their own, with or without multiverse-jumping technology.