Everything Everywhere All at Once, directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, (collectively known as Daniels), is an indisputable triumph that combines a heart-wrenching story with some of the most bizarrely brilliant action I have ever seen. It’s not a perfect movie — in fact, it’s very far from it — but it has so much heart and inspiration that one can’t help but be mesmerized by the freshness and ambition painted into each frame by the filmmakers.
In what is perhaps its biggest feat, Everything Everywhere doesn’t let its action overtake the story it wants to tell, which is that of a Chinese immigrant woman struggling to keep her laundromat open and reconnect with her gay daughter.
Subsequently, the filmmakers introduce the multiverse and show the protagonist, Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), how different, and better, her life could have been. Building on this juicy and dramatic story of regret and guilt, the Daniels shower the movie with both intensely wild action and concepts to create a masterpiece that entertains and touches the audience.
The film’s handling of LGBTQ themes is remarkable, because it doesn’t indulge in the tropes of either utopian parental acceptance or outright abandonment and disownment. Instead, it explores Evelyn’s reluctant approval of her daughter’s queerness, and her dilemma of being torn between her traditional values and prejudices and the new world she has found herself in. Evelyn is learning, growing and highly imperfect, all of which lead to an extremely interesting character and a refreshingly sophisticated handling of LGBTQ themes.
Yeoh is the undisputed star of the movie, and it was a delight to see her again as an action hero after her electric performance in Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 20 years ago. She pulls off a versatile performance, ranging from the Evelyn who has let her life slide by to the kung fu star Evelyn, with ease and equal proficiency. She elevates the film with her ability to be funny, poignant and badass at the same time, creating a unique connection between the audience and the protagonist.
Despite Yeoh’s magnetic charisma, the rest of the cast stands on its own. Ke Huy Quan, a veteran actor and stunt choreographer himself, creates one of the most lovable and heart-warming characters on screen as the innocent yet strong husband. Stephanie Hsu takes on the role of Evelyn’s daughter, Joy, and brings all the nuance, sadness and irritability of her character to life. In a rather surprising role, Jamie Lee Curtis shines as the auditor in a funny and passionate performance that amplifies the significance of her seemingly minor character.
As touching as Everything Everywhere is, I would be remiss if I underplayed the value of its thrills. The concepts in the film are some of the most novel I’ve ever seen, and they lead to some extremely memorable and funny action scenes, the thrills of which were quite reminiscent of the famous church scene from Kingsman: The Secret Service. I do not want to spoil the surprise of how absolutely unpredictable the film is, so you’re going to have to take my word for it and see for yourself.
Another notable quality of the film is its boldness in running with stylistic indulgences. Some costumes and shots seemed straight out of a comic book and could have easily taken the movie down in less capable hands. However, the Daniels execute these ridiculous visuals with such confidence that one is forced to acknowledge their genius. They further push the boundaries by exploring alternate universes with the wildest of possibilities — again, I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so just take my word for it.
Perhaps the boldest and most successful achievement of the directors is the scene in the middle of the movie with two rocks overlooking a massive canyon in absolute silence. That scene itself is a work of art, and in a movie as high octane as this one, is probably the one viewers will remember the most. The movie is worth watching just on the basis of that scene alone.
Overall, the most remarkable thing about Everything Everywhere is the fact that it succeeds in spite of the many places where it could have possibly gone wrong. It breaks barriers by featuring a middle-aged Asian cast and frequent Chinese dialogue in a mainstream non-Marvel action movie. It is a great example of how, ultimately, what constitutes a good film is the art of good, basic filmmaking and the ability to fill the story and screen with heart and inspiration.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a delightful experience that is sure to entertain, engage and touch you. I highly recommend watching it in theaters because only then will you be able to fully appreciate its grandiosity and intimacy. Whatever expectations you walk into the movie with, I can assure you that you will be very pleasantly surprised!