Multiverses are all the rage. Despite the idea of infinite realities being explored in media before, the concept has never been more popular in cinema. In the superhero realm, it's been a solid tool to bring back some iconic performers from past franchises. While it's been great to catch up with some familiar faces in this era of renewed interest in cross-dimensional tales, 'Everything Everywhere All at Once' truly delves into what makes the theory so fascinating. It poses a question that most would consider when thinking about parallel universes: if there are other versions of me, are their lives better than mine? From that setup, directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as Daniels) deliver a sprawling, endearing and wildly overwhelming journey.
Life isn't great for Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh, 'Crazy Rich Asians', 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'). The IRS is auditing the laundromat she operates. Her marriage to her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan, 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom'), is slowly decaying. And her relationship with her daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu, TV's 'The Marvelous Mrs Masiel'), is no better due to Evelyn's thoughts on Joy's girlfriend. But her rudderless existence shifts when her husband tells her she must save the multiverse. Except it's not her husband. Not the version from her universe, anyway. This Waymond has travelled to her world to warn Evelyn of an interdimensional warlord hellbent on eradicating the entire multiverse. This propels Evelyn to borrow skills from alternate versions of herself to prepare for battle. But, in doing so, it forces her to witness the many lives she could have lived.
'Everything Everywhere All at Once' is a work of startling vision. The film could not be more sharply calibrated if it tried. Daniels offers no shortage of ambitious ideas, and seeing them all in play often feels like pure adrenaline in filmic form. No idea is off the table. Nothing is too strange nor too safe. But the reason why it works and doesn't feel like a case of sensory overload is the sheer technical prowess evident in every frame. The utter insanity of 'Everything Everywhere' thrives due to the passion and fluency of its filmmakers. The film has a brilliant understanding of time and space, and the imagination it infuses in its fight choreography, visuals, editing, colour, and lighting could not be in greater service to the story. In a movie landscape where visions can often come across as neutered, it's incredibly refreshing to see a film with big ideas delivered with such little restraint.
Aside from its style and silliness, 'Everything Everywhere' also balances varying tones and emotions deftly. The film is hilarious, graphic, and perhaps most remarkably, poignant. Delving into the multiverse comes with a level of existentialism. To ask if anything really matters can become prevalent upon realising you are just one version of yourself amid a sea of others. But rather than lean into the melancholy of that sentiment, Daniels is wise to instead use the multiverse to expand on a more universal concept. Daniels explores the messiness inherent in both who we are and the lives we lead. Yet, despite things being far from picturesque, the little joys make things worthwhile all the same. The film has a firm grip on tone and makes for an even richer experience.
The film is hilarious, graphic, and perhaps most remarkably, poignant. Delving into the multiverse comes with a level of existentialism.
Cast-wise, things are also pretty spectacular - and they have to be. After all, 'Everything Everywhere' proposes a unique challenge to any performer: portraying multiple versions of the same character - especially for the leading trio of Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Stephanie Hsu, as they need to portray a convincing family unit before splitting off into various versions of themselves. But thankfully, all three of them are more than up to the challenge. For Quan and Hsu, the pair are seamless when shifting personas. One moment they're guileless, the next moment, they're ruthless. While front and centre, Michelle Yeoh has never been better. The film makes excellent use of her martial art skills while she hits moments of profundity with aplomb. The film cares deeply for its characters, and the central three are all able to imbue a great level of warmth undeterred by the enormity of their roles.
As good as the film is, it can, at times, be too much of a good thing. It's mystifying that 'Everything Everywhere' doesn't collapse within itself from its sheer vision, but said vision doesn't always translate smoothly. Fluctuating between diverging worlds and tones can get a tad complicated, meaning moments don't land as well as they could have. Some may also take issue with the film's runtime, with the free rein given to the filmmakers resulting in a few too many endings. Additionally, this issue of ambition is also prevalent in the film's humour, alternating between being clever and sorely juvenile. In the grand scheme of things, these issues never detract from the remarkable accomplishment unfolding before you, but they do keep it from reaching a point of perfection.
'Everything Everywhere All at Once' could have been a disaster in lesser hands. The fact that we are privy to a work that is inventive, frenetic, and unabashedly singular is nothing short of pure joy. Daniels have unleashed a wondrous vision on cinema screens that is big on ideas and big on heart. In a time where a certain type of blockbuster can feel inescapable, 'Everything Everywhere' serves as a brilliant source of madness among the more cookie-cutter fare. Ready yourself for the insanity, because you won't want to miss it.