Everything Everywhere All At Once lives up to its name as a mind-bending spectacle of a science fiction film that also manages to juggle universal themes of love, generational trauma and the potential that every person has to be their best self. It was possibly the most anticipated independent movie of the year when it was released overseas, with rave reviews coming in from all corners. Now that it has finally arrived in South Africa, it can officially be said that all the hype was well-deserved.
This film stars Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang an, overwhelmed Chinese-American immigrant who runs a laundromat with her husband and is struggling to come to terms and is struggling to come to terms with her daughter’s same-sex relationship. She feels dissatisfied with her life, fearing that she has wasted her potential. But everything changes when she learns of the existence of parallel universes and is pulled into a quest to save the multiverse from a being of immerse power with the help of her parallel lives. Yeoh is wonderful in the role, filling Evelyn with life and empathy while still emphasizing her flaws. Her scenes with Stephanie Hsu, who plays Evelyn’s daughter Joy, stand out for their heart-wrenching and honest portrayal of a loving yet complicated mother-daughter relationship. Yeoh is also exceptional in the action sequences, since she is a trained martial artist and first came to prominence through Hong Kong action films. The supporting cast also carry their own scenes beautifully, with Ke Huy Quan as Evelyn’s sweet and positive husband Waymond being a stand-out.
Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known in their collaborations simply as Daniels), the filmmaking itself is creative original, using trippy effects to portray the many universes that Evelyn must traverse, as well as unconventional story choices that leave the viewer guessing as to what might come next. It is impossible to predict where the film is going in any given scene; there is a new surprise almost every minute, whether it’s a laugh-out-loud moment of absurdity or a sudden dramatic shift that emphasises the heavy themes. The term ‘multiverse’ might be used a lot in various Marvel movies, but this film uses the sci-fi premise to its full potential, and in fact often takes it to the weird extreme. Depending on the scene, it manages to pull off being a silly comedy, a martial arts action thriller, and a science fiction adventure complete with commentary about one’s place in the universe. Despite its frenetic pace and constant genre-hopping, though, the family at the centre of the film provide an anchor to keep the narrative grounded and emotionally engaging throughout. With so many shifts in tone and genre, the directors succeed in an incredible balancing act that marks the breakthrough of some refreshing new voices in cinema.
Everything Everywhere All At Once might be brain-meltingly strange, but it will resonate with anyone who has ever wondered where their life would be if they had made a different choice somewhere along the way. It is currently on the circuit at Ster-Kinekor cinemas, where all movies are 50% off on Tuesdays with an SK Club card (which is free). As both an exciting and original science fiction movie and a genuinely affecting piece of art, this is a film that deserves to be seen on the big screen.