EVERYWHERE AT THE SAME TIME. wow.
Regret is a terrible anchor. It not only anchors us to the lives we could have lived, but it can also end up holding us back from reaching the next stage of our own journey, often blinding us to what could be keeping us focused on what could have been. summer, the older we get, the more choices we leave in our wake, the heavier and more entrenched that anchor can become. Unless we choose to change it.
Everything everywhere all at once, the new film from director duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as Daniels), is the story of a woman grappling with her own anchors and how they threaten to not only sink her, but destroy her. take her whole world with her. It’s a powerful, emotional and resonant journey of self-exploration, self-inquiry and self-implosion that spans multiple dimensions, generations and timelines to force Evelyn – the gorgeous Michelle Yeoh – to look at herself. and the life she lives and figures to find a way to make it work before it’s all gone.
Evelyn and her husband Raymond, a cheerful Ke Huy Quan, operate a laundromat on the verge of collapse. Today they are audited and it doesn’t look good, too much interest and expense – Raymond mentions to their dubious auditor that his wife confuses leisure with business when the tax deductions start to look dodgy – left them in a bad patch and they risk losing everything. Listener Dierdre, played by Jamie Lee Curtis in one of the most delightful performances in years, takes pity on the couple and gives them until the end of the day to find the documentation that would make it all go away. , but Evelyn has a few things to do first, like saving all of existence from extinction, but she has to do it before six o’clock.
What follows is a rapid-fire, existential sci-fi/action/comedy extravaganza that manages to navigate a number of extremely fine tonal lines with the grace of a master gymnast. In a nutshell, just before she meets Dierdre, Evelyn is confronted with some kind of alternate universe of her husband who informs her that she is the key to pursuing everything. There’s a lot of scientific and philosophical jargon about the multiverse, “verse-skipping”, and how every path not taken creates a new dimension full of new possibilities and how this Evelyn might be the vessel needed to take on an all-powerful evil. To obligate. This exhausting and dense delivery of very important information leaves Evelyn – and the audience – more than a little confused, but equally intrigued. Seeing her business and her future in jeopardy, and seemingly having nothing left to lose as her audit begins to spiral out of control, Evelyn takes the plunge and shit gets weird.
There couldn’t be a more fitting title for this little story full of huge ideas than Everything everywhere all at once. The story of the little person who makes a big difference is one of the oldest archetypes in the world, but what sets it apart from those that came before it is that it never focuses on danger. named, in this case the end. of everything, and instead uses this macro preoccupation to explore very micro but very important and heavy themes. In fact, Evelyn seems less interested in ending it all, she doesn’t have time for that. Her business is failing, her marriage is on the rocks, her father Gong Gong (played with a vigor that betrays his 90+ years by the legendary James Hong) is visiting and in need of constant care, her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is aimless and she has a party to throw. Let someone else save the world.
Evelyn is his problems, she is his regrets, they only think of themselves, they consume her. She thinks about how she disappointed her father, how she failed to raise a “good” daughter, how the business and life she built with her husband seems to be falling apart around them, and that’s all she thinks about. When the verse-skipping mechanic to save the apocalypse hinges on connecting with what might have been Evelyns in other realities, she sees every mistake she made undone and corrected. It’s a trap, and she’s running straight for him like the Wile E. Coyote in a Roadrunner cartoon. Sometimes we all do.
During the Q&A following last night’s premiere screening at SXSW, Daniels answered many questions from the audience, and while the session was exceptionally robust with some solid requests, that’s something that Kwan said as an aside that really made it clear why Everything everywhere all at once is so special. After the seventh or eighth question about mental health, filial obligation, generational trauma — all topics explored with real depth in the film — Kwan pointed out that this was an unusual Q&A because he and his team had made an action movie, and he’s right. It made the audience laugh, but rarely have I been in the audience for such a kinetic filled film that also had an entire room silently crying at its grip. I was lucky enough to sit across from Curtis and Yeoh, and I peeked more than once during the screening to see them both wiping away tears and along with me . It’s that kind of movie.
If I made the movie sound like a three-handkerchief weepie, well, I’m not sorry, it is. But the sacred cow is only part of that. As Kwan mentioned in the Q&A, this is an action movie, and with Michelle Yeoh leading your cast, you know it’s going to be good. Yeoh’s action sequences are divine, maybe a little more stylized than those from his Hong Kong past, but that’s the movie we’re in for. One of the real surprises for me was Ke Huy Quan, who audiences probably know best from his days as a child star in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies, but he had a short stint as an action choreographer in the late 90s and early 2000s and when he kicked off the action with an impressive Fanny Pack Fu, the film really set the tone. It was going to be fast, it was getting wild, and you never knew where it would end or which non-weapon (inanimate or animate) would end up in which orifice, and to what end.
Everyone in this cast has their chance to shine, Yeoh is obviously doing what she does best, but Quan’s return to the big screen after twenty years is also great. The dynamic between Yeoh and Stephanie Hsu as her daughter feels very lived-in and real; not mean, not malicious, but stern and sometimes sad. Joy is aimless, but is it all her fault? The questions are immense, the ambition multi-dimensional and the answers sometimes hazy, but that’s life, and that’s what this film is about. It’s messy, like life. It’s complicated, like life. It hides its big lessons in tiny moments that can be hard to recognize, like life. It’s funny, but in that humor there’s pain, there’s trauma, there’s catharsis.
Daniels built a monument in Everything everywhere all at once. A monument to the importance of one of many, to the importance of living in the moment and learning to let go of the past and cling to the present. Like any monumental work of art, it changes depending on the angle you approach it from, it changes depending on the light in the room, what elements do you focus on, tell a different part Of the history ?
Everything everywhere all at once is the rare movie that works no matter what you’re looking for. Do you want a love story? It’s here. Do you want action? Oh boy, is it still there. Do you want a sci-fi movie that runs the gamut from super high tech to nerds driving around in a janky ’70s pickup truck? You have it. A treatise on the impact of generational trauma and the need to let go? Yeah. Just interested in a kick score? Son Lux has you covered. Wild camera work? Larkin Seiple really brings it. Jenny Slate being the most Jenny Slate she’s ever been? You have been Slated. Tributes to the meta-film? Would you like Wong Kar Wai or Ratatouille? You get both. It really is a feast, the kind that leaves you almost too drunk to get up from the table, but still craving that last bite. It’s incredible.
Treat yourself, experience Everything everywhere all at onceyou will come out of it happier than you entered it.
Everything everywhere all at once
- Dan Kwan
- Daniel Scheinert
- Dan Kwan
- Daniel Scheinert
- Jenny Slate
- Stephanie Hsu
- Jamie Lee Curtis