“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is a hilarious, heartfelt take on the multiverse

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Tanvi Rao

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” balances emotion, action and humor to create an astonishing film.

Tanvi Rao, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Released in theaters on March 11, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” lives up to its title and then some. The movie follows Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a struggling laundromat owner and Chinese immigrant who finds out that she’s been tasked with saving the universe from cataclysmic destruction. Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheiner (“Daniels”), it’s a genre-defying, heart-wrenching masterpiece that will likely leave you feeling like something in your chest has just clicked into place.

Everything

Currently, the idea of a “multiverse” seems to be very popular, with big franchises like Marvel incorporating it into the very fabric of their cinematic universe. But more often than not, these movies can get overly conceptual, and inevitably confusing due to the fact that you just have to understand the complex science fiction to make heads or tails of the movie itself. 

Thankfully, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” doesn’t fall into this trap. The bizarre humor, engaging action sequences, and masterful cinematography allows viewers to fully enjoy the movie without being caught up in technicalities and contradictions. 

Case in point: a bagel, topped with everything, is the designated weapon of mass destruction.

Here, a new reality stems from every single choice made (and not made), leading to an endless number of universes, and by extension, an endless number of comedic opportunities available a fact that was clearly obvious to the producers. From a universe in which characters are sentient rocks to one where everyone has sausages as fingers, the movie is laugh-out-loud funny. 

Case in point: a bagel, topped with everything, is the designated weapon of mass destruction.”

This humor is carried over to the snappy and incredibly creative action sequences, where we see characters use everything from a fanny pack to a dog on a leash as their choice of weapon. Martial arts also feature heavily, calling back to Yeoh’s arsenal of action movies, and it’s clear that she’s in her element. The fight scenes are overdramatic and comically absurd enough that the action doesn’t feel jarring compared to the rest of the movie, but they remain riveting at the same time.

The film continues to prove its unique nature through the visuals and cinematography. Scenes cut in and out to emphasize Evelyn’s mind being overloaded with the knowledge of her multiverse selves, and the snippets we get of each universe are vibrant, intricate, and filled with life. The costume and set design are painstakingly detailed, and everything from the lighting to the soundtrack augment the atmosphere of each scene. Visually and technically, the film is stunning. 

“Everything Everywhere” does seem to have everything, packed into a two hour timeframe. It’s fast-paced, in-your-face, and just a little ridiculous, but none of this makes the movie feel cramped or like it’s too much. Instead, it instills the movie with expansiveness and complexity, emphasizing just how much of a delightful paradox this movie is.

Everywhere

Despite the surface-level silliness of “Everything Everywhere,” the overwhelming sincerity at its core is what makes it feel so complete. Apart from trying to save the world, Evelyn is also juggling a declining business, a tax audit, and numerous family problems: Her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) has presented her with divorce papers, her hard-to-please father (James Hong) is visiting, and she’s increasingly pushed to acknowledge that her daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), has a girlfriend who she’s ready to introduce to the world.

Aside from the fact that it’s packed to the brim with representation, Evelyn’s perspective is arguably the most powerful part of this film. She’s jaded and exhausted, unsatisfied and wary of change. She’s so ordinary in the fact that she’s reminiscent of many of our generation’s own immigrant parents, but it’s this rarely-used lens that allows the movie to tug on our heartstrings. 

As viewers follow Evelyn through her journey to defeat a villainous version of Joy, who seems to want Evelyn’s understanding so desperately that she’s willing to tear the world apart for it, we are taken through all the different routes that Evelyn’s life could have taken. As compared to her thousands of multiverse selves, laundromat owner-Evelyn is revealed to be the product of every single wrong decision possible, and so we watch her long for a life away from her home above the business she’s barely keeping alive. 

The movie is a profound commentary on missed opportunities and “what-ifs,” and brings up a question that seems to have no true conclusion: what is the point of life?

That might sound bleak, but it’s also how the movie so effectively forges a connection with all kinds of viewers, everywhere. We might not all be Asian immigrants with dysfunctional family lives, but Evelyn’s anxieties are so painfully realistic that they compel everyone to at least understand, if not empathize with her feelings and motivations.

All at Once

In an open letter from Daniels, they mentioned that they felt that their responsibility to the audience was to “blow their minds and change their lives forever.” And it’s safe to say that they achieved this, and more. 

Every aspect put together, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” hits you like an emotionally-charged truck. It’s a jaw-dropping assault on the senses, on the mind and on the heart, all in the best way possible. The movie is well-rounded, striking a perfect balance between humor and action and emotion to balance out and supplement the pure insanity of it all. “Everything Everywhere” is a remarkable approach to the multiverse, one that will certainly stand out for years to come.