Brace yourself for one of the most mind-bending cinematic distortions of the decade. Everything Everywhere All at Once is the latest oddity from ‘Daniels’ (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), whose previous offering was the highly original Swiss Army Man (2016) starring Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano, which notoriously featured Radcliffe as a farting corpse.
Their new film taps into the ever-increasing popularity of multiverses, but unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, theirs is astronomically complex and infinitely layered.
The story revolves around Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) and her broken family. She is a Chinese-American woman leading a humdrum life as the owner of a failing laundromat business. Unhappy in life and on the cusp of financial ruin, she suddenly finds herself pulled into the multiverse when another version of her husband (Ke Huy Quan) appears with explicit instructions.
Not only do parallel universes exist, the number of them increases with every choice that is made by any one person. The most seemingly insignificant decision creates a new tangent-world, where the outcome of the contrary choice creates a new timeline. Confused?
Yep, so is Evelyn, but as soon as she learns how to connect with her infinite else’s and extract their knowledge and skills, she becomes an inter-dimensional warrior tasked with fighting her way through worlds to bring balance to her original time.
Rich in Chinese influence, you would be forgiven for assuming the film to be an Eastern-infused fantasy not unlike other films featuring Yeoh, such as House of the Flying Daggers or even last year’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
However, this adventure is best described as a synthesis of Inception, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Donnie Darko (well kind of). In fact, if you can imagine Run Lola Run being directed by Terry Gilliam (Brazil) with the help of Woo-Ping Yuen (The Grandmaster), then you’ll begin to picture the kaleidoscopic wonder that is Everything Everywhere All at Once.
Broken into three unevenly spread chapters, the film fluctuates between being a violent and kinetic action extravaganza and a repetitive allegorical drama. Some will struggle with the overall pace, while others may strain with the pinball nature of the narrative. The story ricochets like a stray bullet as Evelyn breaks through endless walls of reality, sparring with countless incarnations of the same characters while dealing with the inner turmoil of her own family. It is insane stuff and yet entirely compelling.
Michelle Yeoh delivers a knockout performance (perhaps one of her best), adopting dozens of personas and a slew of character traits. It’s a delight to watch her lead such an audacious film, and she grabs every scene by the horns. Also excellent is Ke Huay Quan as her mild-mannered husband. It’s been a long time since this guy graced our screens and if anything, it is a triumphant return. If his name isn’t familiar to you then his face certainly will be – he was that kid from the ‘80s who played Data in The Goonies and Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Aside from last year’s Goonies-like Finding ‘Ohana, he’s been absent from the screen for over two decades.
The three other standout performances come from Jamie Lee Curtis, Stephanie Hsu and the iconic James Hong (look him up, he was Hollywood’s go-to bad guy in the ‘80s). They give spectacular turns, lapping up the genre-infusion with relish. Curtis has the most fun of the cast and looks to be exhilarated to be playing outside of her box (she is worth the price of admission alone).
Everything Everywhere All at Once is one of the most original films of recent years and will challenge, invigorate and excite anyone with the patience to grapple with its complexities. Once you invest in the story, it all comes together naturally and isn’t a chore at all.
In cinemas: April 14, 2022
Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huay Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis
Directed by: Daniels