Everything Everywhere; wildly creative and heartwarming all at once


Image courtesy of IMDb.

Sadie Dallas, Former Deputy Arts & Culture Editor

“Don’t you see what is happening to your mind?” 

This is what Evelyn Wang’s father says to her as he tries to convince her to kill her daughter in order to save the world from a black hole. Only it’s not her real father, or her real daughter, and the black hole in question is an everything bagel. 

A24’s latest release, Everything Everywhere All at Once, revolves around an ordinary woman who gets swept up in parallel universes while on her way to be audited by the IRS. In an elevator, her husband Waymond’s body is taken over by another version of him, known as Alpha Waymond, from a different universe. He explains to her that parallel universes exist, and they are all in grave danger. Every choice creates another parallel universe, some eerily similar to Evelyn’s reality, some beyond what she could’ve imagined. In one world she is a hibachi chef, in another, she becomes a movie star. 

What makes her different from the other Evelyns is ironically the fact that she is nothing special. Because she has no talents, she is uniquely suited to harness the powers of her alter egos in other universes, with a technique called “verse-jumping”. 

The film uses an otherworldly (or perhaps other-universal) threat to tell the story of a Chinese immigrant’s strained relationship with her daughter. While balanced expertly with humor, this relationship is distressing to watch deteriorate. It’s the beating heart at the center of a film stuffed with secondary plots, the reason Evelyn fights so hard against her parallel daughter Jobu Tupaki is to save her real daughter, Joy. 

Filmmakers Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, known together as Daniels, have created lightning in a bottle with their second feature film collaboration. A nearly indescribable blend of nihilist comedy, action, and sci-fi, Everything Everywhere All at Once truly embodies its name. 

The cast commits phenomenally to whatever ridiculous situation their characters are living in, giving way to a movie so beguilingly engaging that somehow Jamie Lee Curtis playing piano with her toes in an alternate universe is one of the most life-affirming moments in recent cinema. 

These heartwarmingly odd moments of human connection set the film apart from other sci-fi stories, particularly the repeating googly eye motif used to characterize Evelyn’s husband Waymond. The stick-on eyes represent who Waymond is in spite of every bad thing that has happened to him, he is an earnestly cheerful man who just wants his wife to be happy. 

With an ambitious two-plus hour running time, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a mammothy unicorn of a film that may be too much for some audiences. But that’s just the kind of thing one could expect from A24, the production company behind movies like Midsommar and The Lobster. While some viewers may find certain scenes of the film (such as the alternate universe where everyone has hotdogs for hands) weird and off-putting, those familiar with Daniels previous film, Swiss Army Man, might find its particular breed of quirk endearing. 

There’s a certain appeal in the dazzling chaos of this film. Cleverly written characters and a bold plot make it one of the best films of the year thus far, there’s really nothing else quite like it.