Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

Posted in Reviews by - June 06, 2022
Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

As the title suggests, this is a vibrant, delirious, and demented sensory overload which is part sci-fi action film, part absurdist comedy, part existential crisis, and part dysfunctional family drama. Throughout its hyperkinetic multiverse storyline stands the steady, mercurial presence of Michelle Yeoh, playing world-weary laundromat owner, Evelyn, in a career-defining performance. It would be hard to conceive of any other actor being able to convincingly play the role, given Yeoh’s multifaceted, multilingual and genre-hopping career – someone who is equally comfortable in a ballgown at a glitzy Hollywood premiere as she is fighting baddies with a broadsword. The film is as much a tribute to her boundless energy, charisma and talent as it is a profound attempt at studying the human condition. Even if it slightly stumbles at fully realising the latter, it certainly delivers the former.

Evelyn has hopes, dreams, and hidden talents – just like most of us – but she has found herself entering her later years in a loveless marriage to a relentless optimist, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan); at loggerheads with her moody teenage daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu); suffering the emotional torment of an unforgiving father (James Hong); and subjected to an auditing by the IRS. And then, right there in the boring IRS offices, she is gifted a mind-bending salvo when an alternate version of her husband appears from a parallel universe to tell her that she is, in fact, something of a legend across our many dimensions – maybe even capable of stopping an unruly and all-powerful entity from destroying any trace of positivity from the multiverse. In one of the film’s many nods to The Matrix, Evelyn accepts her new challenge – and her new realities – and is summarily hunted by kung fu fighters from across different universes, resorting to channelling the powers of her many alternate ‘Evelyns’ to help her kick ass and save the day.

The hilarious fight scenes are orchestrated by top YouTubers, Andy Le and Brian Le (brothers known online as ‘Martial Club’), captured with an incredible Jackie Chan energy and slipping neatly into the general nuttiness of the film’s unique tone. Combatants are pummelled with dildos; a fanny pack becomes a lethal weapon; and pinky fingers take on an awesome power. Yeoh remains joyously game throughout, even when the film gets really silly – like in one universe, in which she can control the movements of Harry Shum Jr., playing an hibachi chef in an extended skit based on the film, Ratatouille; or when she is courting Jamie Lee Curtis in a world in which humans have evolved to possess long, sausage-like fingers. Only a star of Yeoh’s range and calibre could then so easily adjust to the film’s more emotive gearshifts.

There are aspects of the family dynamic which maybe feel undercooked, despite its long running time, but ultimately its the odd comedy which helps to ground the film and stop it from becoming overly pretentious. It also largely achieves the remarkable and difficult distinction of delivering weighty subjects with genuine ease, pathos, and an almost sleight-of-hand. For that, the writer-directors – who go by the collective name of ‘Daniels’ – deserve a huge amount of credit. It’s uplifting, too, and deceptively heartwarming.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a keyboard in London, UK.

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