EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE (2022)

Michelle Yeoh in a still
  • Release Date: 16/09/2022
  • Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong
  • Director: Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

Wonderfully bizarre! Technically immaculate! Unbelievably edgy! Extremely intimate!

— Ambar Chatterjee

Everything Everywhere All at Once is a commentary on the condition of the modern family and the relationship between parents and their children. It successfully deals with a plethora of issues like the generation gap, how parents are the key support system for their children, how acceptance is one of the key elements of modern parenting, and how the challenges of parenting haven’t changed much over the years and have only metamorphed and assumed different forms owing to the changing state of the society, sexuality, relationship dynamics, and socio-economics of the times. All this may seem incredibly boring to sit through and absorb in a film but Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert present these themes and issues in such a maddening and infinitely open world using the idea of multiverses that practically every scene is bumbling with energy, creativity, comedy, and thrills. Everything Everywhere All at Once is by far the most outrageous and yet unbelievably intimate film to have come out this year.  

The Story:

The story revolves around a laundromat owner, Evelyn (Yeoh) who is desperately trying to save her fledgling business establishment. Her relationship with her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), and daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is on the verge of breaking down. She is also trying her best to reach an amicable settlement with the IRS who are auditing her laundromat for tax fraud. On the day of the Chinese New Year, Evelyn is summoned to the IRS building where she is intercepted by a version of Waymond from a different multiverse who takes control of Waymond’s body for short periods. This man tells Evelyn that she is the last hope against a great evil known as Jobu Tupaki that is about to destroy the world as we know it. Evelyn must quickly learn how the multiverse works, use the different technologies to tap into the knowledge and emotions of her different iterations in different multiverses, and find a way to defeat Jobu who is out to kill her.  

Superlative direction and mesmerizing treatment: –

The director duo of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert are known for their insane takes on simple matters, but with this film, they have outdone anything that they had done in the past. A story that starts off as a somber and temperamental family drama quickly catapults into an adventure that though unravels inside a single building but takes its characters across worlds, galaxies, time, and different mental states. I loved the fact the directors never let the film become too exposition heavy. The viewer learns about the multiverse and how it works along with the character of Evelyn. This not only fills the screenplay with a constant feeling of discovery, wonder, and thrills but also ensures that there isn’t a single dull or exposition-heavy moment in the film. The directors take the phrase “show don’t tell” to heart and design every sequence of the film on the said principle.

While the majority of the film is laced with maddening action, insane visuals, and mystifying sci-fi concepts, the directors pay enough attention to the characters and build them wonderfully throughout the film leading up to the climax. These characters then utilize the power and the relationship that they have forged with the audiences to deliver an emotional payload that ultimately disarms the audience and makes them feel that strange warm thing somewhere deep inside that is more satisfying and rewarding than the most insane action sequence or the most out of the world and bizarre representation of a sci-fi concept.

Stephanie Hsu in a still

Sensational performances from the ensemble cast: – 

Michelle Yeoh was someone who was discovered by Hollywood and then forgotten completely. However, I am confident that this role will put her back in the minds of every director and producer in Hollywood. Evelyn is as complex a character as she could be and her nuances change sometimes with the blink of an eye. She has numerous different avatars depending on the multiverse that we are in. This includes one universe where the people have hot dogs for fingers. Yeoh was able to infuse seriousness and true emotions in her character even in this weird universe that begged the audiences to laugh their guts out. If that was not enough, her character in the universe where all the mayhem takes place has to not only access the memories and traits of characters from numerous other multiverses but also depict the emotional state and other characteristics of these characters. I can’t even imagine how incredibly difficult this must have been but Michelle Yeoh pulls it all off in the most organic way possible.

I thoroughly enjoyed her interactions with three other characters with whom she shares very different relationships underlined by specific dynamics and emotional depth. I was bewildered by how much she was involved in all three relationships and how genuine her emotions felt in all these three interactions. It must be noted that the emotional core of the film was dependent on the success of these interactions and the climax derived its power and beauty from these build-ups culminating in an emotionally draining and disarming finale.

Ke Huy Quan is another actor that Hollywood forgot about after giving him a few interesting roles. After this essay, he will now have the luxury of choosing what he wants to do since he hit it out of the park with his performance here. Every aspect of the different iterations of his characters is played extremely well by the man. However, as the helpless husband of a wife who he can no longer live with but at the same time is finding incredibly difficult to divorce, Ke Huy Quan delivers the most satisfying and rewarding performance. One can feel his frustration and disillusionment and also how much he loves his wife which makes the entire predicament that much more heartbreaking. By the end, when Evelyn starts recognizing and understanding his true value, his character metamorphs into someone a lot more confident, happy, and strong. I just loved his essay to the core.    

Stephanie Hsu is as brilliant as Joy as she is as the primary antagonist of the film. The two characters are so different that it is mind-boggling to even think that the same actor played both the characters and that too with such conviction and poignance. She is shown doing some of the most insane things and yet she maintains a sense of reason, believability, composure, and emotional depth in the two different characters throughout. The arc that her character is shown having is one of the most bizarre that one could have envisioned. Yet she is able to make all of it feel real and affecting.

Ke Huy Quan in a still

Cinematography and Editing:

The cinematography and editing of the film are just out of this world. Just thinking of how many different camera setups they might have needed and how they might have executed some of the more outrageous sequences of the film boggles my mind. The fact that this film was completed and is out there for us to see is nothing short of a miracle if you look at it from a cinematography perspective.

The same has to be said about the editing. The film is nearly 2 and a half hours long and yet it breezes past like a locomotive on top speed. There are many sequences where the average shot length is less than 1 second and yet you will not miss a thing in these shots. The action sequences are edited with just as much proficiency. Here again, the speed is dialed down just a notch to let the audiences enjoy the action but at the same time let the audiences understand the sheer speed and physicality of the action. The changes in the aspect ratio of the visuals give the audiences the necessary visual cues to subconsciously prepare for something in the middle of something else. The cinematography and editing of the film are laced with so many different nuances and technical qualities that one can write an entire review of these two aspects alone.    

Innovative and spellbinding Action: –

The action of the film is wonderfully envisioned and skillfully executed. It is then creatively shot and authoritatively edited. The result is sequence after sequence of action that feels fresh, imaginative, well executed, and has an impact. Some of the action sequences are laced with a healthy serving of comical additions (like two Asian guys fighting with things stacked up their butts) but never lose track of the scheme of things and the purpose that they are meant to fulfill. The fight choreography is lucid and is captured in its vitality. The people involved in the action give it their everything resulting in sequences that have the necessary sense of urgency and physicality. I loved how they used long takes and kept the camera far enough for us to see the entirety of the unfolding action.

Final Words:

Everything Everywhere All at Once deserves every bit of the praise that it is garnering and a whole lot more. It is the kind of film that you can watch multiple times and every time you can watch it for a different reason. The film was made at a quarter of the budget that most Hollywood biggies are used to getting and yet feels plush, expansive, enormous, and yet very personal and intimate. It is hard to gauge its greatness from the words written or spoken about it. The best idea is to just go and watch it. Be aware! This is not the kind of film that you can just sit back and let its visuals and sounds wash over your senses. This is the kind of film that demands and needs your active participation. It has a lot of subtitled sequences that you need to understand and keep up with. Having said that, you will be rewarded handsomely for the effort that you put in to understand it and the gifts will be diverse and innumerable.  

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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