Directing duo Daniels (Daniel Scheinert and Dan Kwan) have a signature style and vision when it comes to making art, and their latest project stays true to their offbeat creativity. “Everything Everywhere All At Once” has been described as “an assault on the senses,” and that’s the most accurate statement I have ever heard. This film embraces chaos and feels like a mash-up of “The Matrix,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” and “Tree of Life.” It defies categorization. For those of you who thought “‘Swiss Army Man’ was just too mainstream for me,” hold on to your seat for this one.
Chinese immigrant Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) is just trying to do her taxes. She’s being pulled in so many different directions that she’s unable to focus on any of her tasks at hand. When Evelyn discovers that she’s needed to save the world, she travels to other connected universes, exploring the many lives she could have led.
It’s better to leave the plot summary at that. The less you know, the more you’ll love about the movie. I’m not even sure how to write a thorough synopsis of this one because it’s so wild and unique. There’s a eclectic anarchy to this frantic, high-energy film, and it’s exhausting — but in a good way.
The script is absolutely bonkers, but it makes sense. I give great respect to Daniels for creating clear multiverse rules within their story as well as managing to keep their established rules consistent throughout. That’s not an easy feat, especially in a film with such a complex narrative.
I’m not sure how Daniels pulled it off, but all of this comes together in a cohesive, if totally bizarro, film. The technical aspects are terrific, including the stellar editing and fight choreography, as well as the inventive costuming and makeup.
Of course, the real star here is Yeoh. It’s an atypical part for a more mature actor, especially a 59 year old Asian woman, and she turns in a phenomenal performance in a role that asks a lot from her. Yeoh shows off a huge range where she handles enormous demands, effortlessly. Her comedic timing reaches perfection, and she dances between action stunts and drama with ease. The film is wonderfully cast as a whole, with solid supporting turns from Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, Jamie Lee Curtis, and James Hong.
I could see this film becoming a cult classic, and I would guess that there’s a benefit to watching this stoned out of your mind. It’s outrageous and bizarre, sometimes to a fault. The in-your-face eccentricity and the film’s 139 minute runtime does wear thin in spots, which requires a lot of stamina from the audience. It’s tough to be jolted from one tone to the next as the story shifts from a family drama to an offbeat comedy to an existential nightmare to a dreamlike fantasy to a martial arts action thriller at what feels like the snap of two fingers. There’s a total evolution that occurs, ending with an unexpected heart and sincerity underneath the chaos.
While “Everything Everywhere All at Once” may be too wacky and weird for some, you can’t say that the film doesn’t have a fully realized vision and story. It’s frenzied and eccentric and brimming with chaos, and I was enchanted by this tale of love, the multiverse, and bagels.