When Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) tries to do Everything Everywhere All at Once, the one thing she can’t get done right are her businesses’ taxes. This sci-fi martial arts comedy is very unconventional. When we think we’re getting an Asian-style family drama taking place during Chinese New Year, it switches gears to represent other genres. Evie gets to examine the life of other versions of herself, and all it takes is to tap a bluetooth style earpiece so her spirit can hop from body to body.
Someone’s after her, and it seems this force plans to consolidate the growing chaos not only from universes about to explode, but also with this woman’s life.
Meanwhile, in other universes, Waymond (Jonathan Ke Quan) either wants a divorce or be like Jackie Chan. In another, he’s happy with being that dutiful husband. In all versions, Deirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis) is an IRS agent with an attitude. I suspect this actress is borrowing from her experience from Halloween to present a terrifying Michael Myers type of figure, but her involvement is a small part of what this film represents.
When we add on top all those quantum string theory contexts regarding how alternate universes spring into existance ala Back to the Future, keeping track of which reality Alpha Evie exists in can be hard. As long as viewers are paying attention, it’s actually not too bad. But I wonder why one particular version is more important than others. The answer is in Everything Everywhere, from a different Waymond. He’s like Al from Quantum Leap to reveal what’s going on, and how she can fix the multiverse.
The showdown is a trip through all the zany alternate realities that the filmmakers can only imagine. I’m surprised the kitchen sink wasn’t used! Some of it makes this movie excessively long, but when it gets amusingly meta by injecting our reality where Yeoh is the star and Evie is fiction, the tale is even more surreal. But what stands out is how the Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, the writers/directors) philosophies get preached not only to the protagonist but also to viewers to take home. They are presenting a form of Buddhism which seems nihilistic. It’s a practice not everyone subscribes to and the nod is very evident when considering a few of the garments Jobu Tupaki, the antagonist, wears. The visual cues to these motifs are used throughout film and it’ll take an essay to decipher what each of them represent.
Ultimately, Everything Everywhere All at Once is about how to live up to expectations. Evelyn left her nest and her father disapproved. After landing in America and establishing a successful neighbourhood laundry business, she doesn’t know if she can celebrate because of the work involved. To see when she can find happiness depends on when she’s able to tune out the world and focus on her self emotional well-being. When she discovers the meaning of life, this movie is not a Monty Python ride. Fans of the 60s TV series Time Tunnel are likely to notice a similarity too; it takes a will to shape everything to come–past and present. You don’t have to be H.G. Wells or King Arthur’s Merlin to craft that.
4 Stars out of 5