Everything Everywhere All At Once: A Multiverse Masterpiece


Anjana Narasimhan

NOT YOUR NORMAL SUPERHERO: Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) fights with her multiversal martial arts skills.

Olivia Cai, Staff Writer

In a time where so many possibilities lay at our fingertips yet still seem out of reach, directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s “Everything Everywhere All At Once” reminds us in a brilliant cinematic swirl of poppy seeds, hot dog fingers and optimistic nihilism, to exist in the moment.

This outlandish spin on the multiverse trope opens with failing laundromat owner Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) preparing for an IRS tax audit while simultaneously setting up a Chinese New Year party to welcome her visiting father, Gong Gong (James Hong). Her family only adds to her stress as she precariously balances her hectic agenda with her husband Waymond’s (Ke Huy Quan) doubts about their marriage and her daughter Joy’s (Stephanie Hsu) plan to come out to her rather conservative grandfather. Although the beginning of the movie seems mundane, the chaos of Evelyn’s day to day life are enough to keep viewers hooked. And just when Evelyn’s day couldn’t get any more overwhelming, her husband appears to switch consciousnesses with another version of himself who tells her that he’s from one of many parallel universes that may soon be destroyed if Evelyn doesn’t join a wild universe-hopping journey to save all of existence. 

The first hour is intentionally dizzying and overwhelming as viewers are introduced to the multiverse through Evelyn’s eyes. She has to complete the least statistically likely action in any given situation to give herself enough multiverse momentum to connect to an alternate self, resulting in hilarious fight scenes interrupted by blowing up her opponent’s nose or professing her love to IRS-auditor-turned-evil-minion Deidre (Jamie Lee Curtis) to be unpredictable enough to verse-jump. The scenes border on ridiculous, but director pair “the Daniels” know just how much is too much.

Previous performances such as Ying Nan, the aunt of Shang-Chi in Marvel’s 2021 superhero film, demonstrate Yeoh’s martial arts talent but do not allow for as much emotional depth of character as she was able to display in her role as Evelyn. Yeoh’s ability to pull off such outrageous action sequences in one moment and philosophically comment on the meaning of life in the next truly cements her status as an experienced movie star.

The film is incredibly well produced considering the relatively cheap $25 million budget. Scenes are rapidly spliced together in a montage style, changing lighting, mood and stylistic choices as viewers catch a flashing glimpse of the multiverse. Expertly choreographed fight scenes using a variety of unconventional combat styles and weapons are scattered throughout. Moviegoers can expect to be in stitches one moment and unexpected tears the next as Evelyn makes her way through the multiverse. Son Lux’s soundtrack, complete with ethereal synths and recognizable classics such as Debussy’s “Claire de Lune”, pairs perfectly with the wacky and sentimental moments of the film.

Despite the movie’s wildly outlandish humor and disorienting universe hopping, it manages to avoid falling into the multiverse movie (worm)hole of shallow characters and anticlimax often seen in blockbuster action franchises. Exceptional directing and acting create a sentimental story of overcoming generational family trauma and accepting people for who they are that Asian American immigrant families are sure to identify with. 

“Everything Everywhere All At Once” weaves everything bagels, absurd humor and a touching mother-daughter narrative into a bold new spin on multiverses unlike anything Hollywood has seen before, while still delivering its central message that loving and being kind in the midst of all the chaos is a truth that stands across all realities. And out of all the parallel universes out there, the one where you decide not to watch this movie is not the one you want to live in.