Trying to figure out why a movie is called what it is called has become a recent fixation with me. A great example is the film A Separation (2011), where the many examples of why the film has that name become more and more impressive as you analyze the contents of its story. The new film by the Daniels (Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan respectively), Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022), may be the most profound example of this concept, as this film truly feels like it is exactly what the title states.
Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), an aging Chinese immigrant, finds that apparently she alone can save the world by exploring other universes and connecting with the lives she could have led. Things only compound as she finds herself lost in the vastness of the infinite multiverses, all while trying to keep up with her family and their failing business.
Everything in this film is firing on all cylinders. The performances from Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu as her daughter Joy, Ke Huy Quan (yes, he did play Short Round) as Raymond, James Hong as Gong Gong, and, of course, Jamie Lee Curtis as the IRS auditor, are all outstanding. The technical aspects – cinematography, costumes, production design, fight choreography, editing – are all masterful, exhibiting the pinnacle of the art form. It’s as weird as you might imagine – especially if you saw Daniels’ first film, Swiss Army Man (2016). It’s funny as hell. It’s unbelievably relevant, and its commentary on the climate of the culture is incredibly accurate. This movie made me laugh, cry, cheer, and, most impressively, fall in love all over again with the art I have spent six years analyzing and obsessing over. I can’t shake the euphoria of my experience twelve hours after seeing it.
This film would be impressive just from the ride of it. The fight scenes are great. The comedy keeps a smile on your face. The thing I just didn’t expect was to walk away with a greater understanding of why we exist. The level of existentialism in this film that is achieved while combating nihilism is incredible. Add in the creative ways in which they explain the multiverse theory and how that only adds to their weird style – that I happen to adore – and you have an undeniably original film.
I am, of course, afraid of overselling this movie. We have all likely had one of those moments where the film can’t live up to the hype. I am also afraid of recency bias blinding my judgment, and allowing me to make such bold proclamations…but I can’t shake the feeling I was like one of those people from the tale you may have heard. It is a similar experience to the moment a silent black-and-white image of a moving locomotive filled a movie screen in Paris – the people in the cinema thought it was going to drive right into them, and they gasped in fear that a train was about to hit them – only to discover that they just witnessed moving pictures. They must have known afterward that they witnessed something special. I believe everyone who sees this movie has witnessed something special. Everything Everywhere All at Once is a definitive Must See film.