Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, the directing duo known collectively as “The Daniels,” haven’t directed a feature film together since 2016’s Swiss Army Man (review), with Kwan branching off to work on television shows like FX’s Legion and Scheinert directing a feature film on his own in 2019’s The Death of Dick Long (review). Six years after their last joint feature film effort, they return with the utterly delightful, hilarious and touching Everything Everywhere All at Once, a film that gives actress Michelle Yeoh one of the best roles of her career.
The synopsis for Everything Everywhere All at Once simply describes the film as “a hilarious and big-hearted sci-fi action-adventure about an exhausted Chinese American woman (Michelle Yeoh; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) who can’t seem to finish her taxes.” While that’s not an inaccurate statement, it’s leaving out the most important part of the premise: the existence of the multiverse. You see, Evelyn is in a rut. She’s got a husband (Ke Huy Quan; The Goonies, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) ready to divorce her, a father (James Hong; Big Trouble in Little China) who has never approved of her life choices, a daughter (Stephanie Hsu; Awkwafina is Norah From Queens) struggling to bring her new girlfriend (Tallie Medel) into the family and an impending audit from the IRS, courtesy of one very grumpy agent (Jamie Lee Curtis; relishing in her character’s cantankerousness).
As if all of that wasn’t enough, a version of her husband from another universe arrives to warn Evelyn of the impending destruction of everything within the multiverse. He tells her that she is the only version of herself capable of stopping it, before giving her a headset that will allow her to tap into alternate versions of herself. By doing so, she is able to gain the special skills of those alternate Evelyns, and it is with these new abilities that she will fight the mysterious figure hellbent on destroying the multiverse.
So, yeah. Much like its title implies, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a lot. And yet, it all works somehow. Should we be surprised? The Daniels did make a successful film out of Daniel Radcliffe playing a farting corpse, after all. While the concept of the multiverse has gained mainstream popularity thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the film feels more indebted to the interdimensional cable episodes of Rick and Morty mixed with the stylized glamour of Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (and especially the latter’s penchant for metatextual references to other films). That being said, Everything Everywhere All at Once is uniquely its own beast and is almost impossible to describe. It’s going to be even harder to sell, which might explain why it took six years to get made, but those that take the plunge will find themselves witnessing what’s bound to be one of the best movies of the year.
At its core, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a story of a woman learning to cope and move past intergenerational trauma. We see the effects that her father’s disapproval has had on Evelyn’s life, and throughout the course of the film, she begins to realize that she is doing the same thing to her daughter Joy. It’s a vicious cycle and one that only something as bonkers as a sci-fi adventure through the multiverse can fix. The film will have you doubling over with laughter one moment and have you tearing up the next. It’s a seamless emotional journey filtered through the limitless lens afforded by the genre.
As mentioned above, Yeoh is simply astounding here. In Evelyn, she gets to play a truly vibrant and funny character that practically leaps off the screen. This isn’t to undersell the rest of the cast, however. Quan is given his first lead role in nearly 20 years and provides many of the film’s funniest moments. Hong has the least to do, but the 93-year-old actor is always a welcome presence. It’s Hsu, however, who surprises the most. In a role that was originally meant to be played by Awkwafina, Hsu is a revelation. To say more about her role in the film would delve too far into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say that most of the film’s pathos comes from her performance. This actress is going to be a star.
On a technical level, the film is a marvel (no pun intended). Aided by Paul Rogers’ frenetic editing and frequent match cuts as Evelyn journeys from universe to universe, the film’s 132-minute runtime flies by. The narrative is fairly straightforward, but the Daniels use the cinematic medium to find new and creative ways to push the story along. What makes Everything Everywhere All at Once so genuinely charming and innovative is its complete and total willingness to get weird. Jenny Slate punts a Pomeranian (and uses it as a weapon)! Jamie Lee Curtis does martial arts! Assassins jump onto butt plug-shaped IRS awards! There’s a universe where everyone has hot dog wieners for hands! There are plenty of other oddities, but why ruin the many, many surprises that the film has in store?
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a magical triumph of cinematic storytelling. It’s just a delight from beginning to end. It’s bonkers. It’s hilarious. It’s violent. It’s charming. It’s sweet. It’s great. You’ve never seen anything like this before, so enjoy the ride.
A24 will release Everything Everywhere All at Once theatrically on March 25.