Thursday, April 14, 2022

Microreview: Everything Everywhere All at Once

Is this film about everything? Yes and no. But it's certainly everything I was looking for.

Everything Everywhere All at Once is a brilliantly maximalist film that’s grounded in a middle-aged Chinese-American woman managing a laundromat. A woman who’s thrust into a multiverse in which she’s a key player. Everything but the kitchen sink is thrown with verve and style. The ‘verse becomes so expansive that it could unleash the viewer into a never-ending vacuum in which their perception be overloaded with infiniteness. It could be so overwhelming that they lose touch with what ties them to their world and holds them together. Just like how things could’ve played out for the laundromat owner - Evelyn - if the film left things pessimistic and unresolved. Everything Everywhere All at Once is a contradiction in which almost everything that can happen does happen (and that’s part of what makes it so fun), but its devotion to a small, key cast of characters that Evelyn needs, also champions how, often, less is more.

Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) runs a laundromat with her estranged husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). Meanwhile, she’s also dealing with her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) whose attraction to the same sex she disapproves of. While dealing with taxes one day, she finds herself plunged into the multiverse, and soon finds out that she’s the only person capable of dealing with a force that seeks to destroy all the ‘verses. And that force might be something closer to her than initially thought.

The film tackles the meaningless of the universe, particularly how its amplified when we have infinite information - whether it be from multiverses or the Internet – and how once we know everything in the world, and yet nothing of value, we can be certain that nothing matters. That hopelessness is amplified further by how miniscule Earth in all its multiverses play a very small part in the grandeur of the universe. That’s the downside of all-knowingness of our planet in the most macro sense. The bright side is that the film never shies away from showing creative universes that simultaneously offer broad comedy and serious introspection, and somehow all having connective tissue, ending each universes' storyline satisfactorily.

This film also manages to be a hard-hitting family story. Whether it be Joy trying to have her mother and grandfather accept her homosexuality, Evelyn struggling to understand her daughter and reconnect with her husband, or Waymond trying to regain the spark he once felt in his life—this film doesn’t come close to fumbling its exploration of humanity. Those storylines are elevated by an incredible cast. Michelle Yeoh is brilliant as anyone who's seen any of her films would probably suspect. She plays more personalities than I can count and infuses each one with believability. Ke Huy Quan is the moral compass of the film and brings so much joy to every one of his lines. Speaking of joy, Stephanie Hsu who plays the daughter Joy Wang will probably be the character that the audience can relate to the most. The 2020s’ haven’t been the most uplifting years and Joy is almost a manifestation of that, voicing that feeling more authentically than any character I’ve seen.

Everything Everywhere All at Once should please everyone. For those looking for absurdity, the film delivers. It’s also accessible, offering action and pacey developments aplenty. It has its finger on the pulse of the last few years, no doubt sparking debates and introspection of our own lives. And without spoiling things, it offers a message that I found to be a salve for all the pain of the universe. The best art is one that can move you, entertain you, and almost change the chemistry of your brain, making you a different and often better person. Everything Everywhere All at Once did all those things, and left an indelible mark that I will cherish in this puny world. Despite the nihilism that often creeps into my worldview, it’s nice to embrace the smaller things, like great movies that keep you afloat. Nothing matters, but I can still love some of the things that don’t.

Nerd Coefficient: 10/10

POSTED BY: Sean Dowie - Screenwriter, stand-up comedian, lover of all books that make him nod his head and say, "Neat!