Here’s one of 2022’s most creatively ambitious films. Everything Everywhere All at Once is a total nutcase of a film.
Written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, it stars the awesome Michelle Yeoh. She plays a dissatisfied Chinese-American laundromat co-owner who becomes embroiled in a multi-Universe wide war involving multiverse versions of herself.
It’s a fast-paced blast with a lot going on. It was one of 2022’s top rated films, too! Here’s what we did make of it.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The centre of the film is Evelyn Quan Wang (Yeoh) who’s married to Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan). They have a gay daughter called Joy Wang (Stephanie Hsu).
The couple runs a laundromat having emigrated to the US years earlier, against the behest of Evelyn’s father Gong Gong (James Hong).
We catch up with Evelyn as her husband is, reluctantly, trying to serve her divorce papers. All whilst she’s trying to run the laundromat on a day where they’re having a party to celebrate Chinese New Year. Meanwhile, Joy wants her mother to accept her non-Chinese girlfriend Becky.
This opening 20 minutes is actually out favourite from the film.
It captures the busy family life—the chaotic mundanity of day-to-day things. It’s reminiscent of scenes from Punch-Drunk Love (2002), with a growing sense of mania and disorder for the dissatisfied and stressed Evelyn.
To make matters worse, she has the IRS on her case.
And at this point, IRS inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis) enters the film. Not a minute too early as she’s bloody fantastic in this thing.
Unfortunately, the full scene doesn’t seem to be online yet. But this bit where she’s in full pomposity mode as the IRS bro, showboating about her employee of the month awards (three of them), and brushing cookie crumbs off her jumper is the best bit of the movie for us.
What happens after this is where Everything Everywhere All at Once will either engage you in raptures. Or leave you baffled and bored.
An Alpha-Waymond from a different Alphaverse (endless Universes with different versions of people) explains to Evelyn many parallel universes exist. Now there’s verse-jumping technology allowing people to shift from one reality to the next. However, this is all threatened by Jobu Tupkaki, the Alphaverse version of Evelyn’s daughter Joy, who can manipulate matter at will.
With verse-jumping technology under her belt, Evelyn can now head out into the multiverse to try and save the day and all that.
To put it in other words, the film totally goes off on one.
And we put that there, we mean in really goes off on one. Everything Everywhere All at Once has that name for a reason—it tries to merge multiple genres into one. From Dadaist absurdist comedy, sci-fi, fantasy, animation, martial arts movies and more.
Whether you think it works or not is down to you.
It goes a bit like Rick and Morty, leaping from one idea to the next. And that show is very hit and miss, often getting bogged down in convoluted concepts (although its fanbase would castrate us for daring to suggest that).
There’s no denying there are some massive peaks in Everything Everywhere All at Once. Especially with its dafter comedic chops.
Most notably the Universe where everyone has hot dog fingers and Evelyn has hooked up with Deirdre Beaubeirdre and they own the laundromat.
This kind of reminds us of Don’t Look Up (2021), that black comedy about an environmental disaster with Leo DiCaprio. We enjoyed that one a great deal, although plenty of other people didn’t.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a similar type of romp.
We’re glad so many people have enjoyed it. But we did find its fast-paced jumping around from one weird thing to the next as an onslaught of constant nonsense.
That’s the point—it’s absurd and all that.
It just left us bored for big chunks of the film. But there’s enough going on to have some serious highs, like when it cuts to this out of the blue.
Another thing we did like about the narrative is its focus on Evelyn’s initial depression she could have “bettered” herself as a famous movie star or martial artist, like other versions of herself in other Universes.
However, she comes to realise what she’s achieved with her Universe’s life is impressive. The movie star husband version of her husband even informs her he wishes he could marry the non-movie star version of his wife.
She believes herself to be a failure and mundane. Yet she’s actually anything but—this is depicted in subtle ways. The film’s use of language being one, as Evelyn juggles family matters by talking, in a matter of seconds, to:
- Her father in Cantonese.
- Husband in Mandarin.
- Daughter in English (whilst criticising her poor Mandarin).
And all whilst simultaneously managing customers in the laundromat! It’s a neat little family dynamic highlighting how people can be extraordinary in “mundane” situations yet not recognise it.
Alongside these moments, there are a number of genuinely hilarious bits and bobs.
Michelle Yeoh is fantastic and Jamie Lee Curtis is just brilliant as IRS inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdre. If everything is right with the world, both should get an Oscar nod for their performances.
Away from those two, full credit to all involved with Everything Everywhere All at Once for trying something ambitious.
Whilst we found it only really works some of the time, you have to commend them for trying something a little different. And for creating some real cinematic highlights in doing so.
The Production of Everything Everywhere All at Once
It’s important to point out this production isn’t a blockbuster. It’s an independent film created by a much smaller crew than you’d get on bigger budget films.
Not that it was underfunded, as directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert had $25 million to play with here.
Happily, the film was a success in cinemas and earned over $103 million worldwide.
Kwan and Scheinert started work on the multiverse concept in 2010. In 2018 they were alarmed when the excellent Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse showed signs of ruining their original concept.
This was made worse by Rick and Morty, which also experiments around with reality-defying plot points and concepts.
But the writers got the screenplay done. Jackie Chan was initially intended for the lead, but the writers instead changed the plot to a husband-wife dynamic with Yeoh as the disillusioned protagonist.
The shoot was done in an incredible 38 days! That was in January 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic would have ruined things. They got lucky there, with the shoot taking place in Simi Valley of California.
It was a physical shoot for everyone. Michelle Yeoh is 60. She’s famous (and made her name) for taking on her stunts. Anyone who’s seen Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000) will know how awesome she is at all that physicality stuff.
Everything Everywhere All at Once was incredibly well received by critics with near universal praise for it worldwide.
The National Board of the American Film Institute named it one of the top 10 films of 2022. Plus, it’s had six nominations at the Golden Globe Awards. AND 14 nominations for the 28th Critics’ Choice Awards. Well done it!
A Bit About Michelle Yeoh
Everything Everywhere All at Once can be viewed as something of a late-career revival for Michelle Yeoh.
She’s a terrific actress who rose to prominence in the 1980s, before gaining worldwide fame into the late 1990s.
She’s from Ipoh, Perak, in a Malaysian Chinese family with Cantonese ancestry. Fluent in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English she moved to the UK at the age of 15 with her family. She studied at the Royal Academy of Dance in London. And at age 20 in 1983 won Miss Malaysia World. Then went on to start acting in martial arts films, performing her own stunts!
We’re always surprised by this, but she’s been married to Jean Todt since 2004. He’s the former boss of the Ferrari F1 team from 1994-2007 (overseeing Michael Schumacher’s four titles in a row run).
And the president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) from 2009 to 2021. True love and all that!
Yeoh is now set for roles in the next two Avatar films (2024 and 2026), so we look forward to seeing her in those.