One of the most exciting films to be released this year is the Daniels’ Everything Everywhere All At Once. The film follows Evelyn Wang, a woman who has grown unhappy with her life as she has become distant from her husband, Waymond, while her relationship with daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is at breaking point. When the family’s laundrette business is audited by the IRS, Evelyn learns that she has the ability to jump between multiple universes which range from the fantastical (the kung-fu universe in which she is a movie star) to the bizarre (the hot dog universe where everyone’s fingers are hot dogs). The film is a wonderful conglomerate of various genres and styles and includes some of the funniest plot lines in recent years, especially ‘Racacoonie’ in which a chef (Harry Shum Jr.) who is controlled by a raccoon on top of his head in the style of Ratatouille.
Written and directed by the ‘Daniels’ (the collective name for filmmakers Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), Everything Everywhere All At Once is one of the most original films to be released in recent years thanks to its mix of fantastical elements that are grounded by timely and relevant issues. Serving as a wonderful tribute to Michelle Yeoh’s extensive career while also allowing her to showcase her range as protagonist, Evelyn, Everything Everywhere All At Once is a film that is all about the human experience. The script is incredibly extensive and filled with many pop culture references that is sure to appease all ages. It’s insane to think that this is only the Daniels’ second feature as the film feels so large in its scope and characterisation. Their script in particular is one of the best of the year and is sure to garner awards attention for Original Screenplay as it will be difficult to find a film with more originality and innovation than this.
It is no understatement that Everything Everywhere All At Once is Michelle Yeoh’s film. As the initial inspiration for Evelyn’s character when the Daniels decided to change the protagonist from male to female, Yeoh provides a masterclass in acting in what is one of the most exciting performances of the year. Evelyn is unhappy with the direction her life has gone in and when the IRS begin to audit the family’s laundrette business, things seem to reach a breaking point. What follows is a wonderful homage to Yeoh’s illustrious career as well as allowing her to showcase her brilliant range in a role that is both sweet and fierce at the same time. It’s no surprise that there is a lot of potential Oscar buzz for Yeoh, who controversially was snubbed for her performance in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Yeoh has been providing wonderful performances for decades and finally it feels as though she is getting the praise and recognition from Western audiences that she deserves.
Making a comeback to acting after a long hiatus is Ke Huy Quan who stars as Evelyn’s lovable husband, Waymond. What is great about Quan’s performance is that he is also given the chance to showcase a large range as we see him as the quiet Waymond in the current universe which is then contrasted by Alpha Waymond who is far more confident and assertive. Quan took a hiatus between 2004 and 2019 but the way that he grasps the character and manages to convey so much through Waymond, you wouldn’t think that he had been away from the camera. The scenes in which he encounters Evelyn in the movie star universe are particularly wonderful as the Daniels pay tribute to In The Mood For Love and Quan in this universe plays a dramatic version of Waymond in a scene that shows how the characters could have flourished if they didn’t leave China together.
Aside from the stellar leading performances, there are also plenty of supporting turns that are worth talking about. Stephanie Hsu is wonderful as Evelyn’s daughter Joy and the immortal entity Jobu Tupaki who has placed the meaning of life into an everything bagel that has the potential to destroy the multiverse. The role was originally written for Awkwafina who dropped out due to scheduling conflicts and although it would have been great to see her in such a brilliant role, Hsu is equally fantastic and proves to be the perfect choice. The difference between Joy and Jobu Tupaki are visual and internal polar opposite as the former is having to grapple with the possibility that her grandfather may disown her for being gay while also having to deal with the turbulent relationship with her mum that begins to worsen, while the latter is bright and colorful with elaborate costumes and a confidence as she knows everything there is to know. Hsu plays both of these roles perfectly to the point where you do forget that they are being played by the same actress.
Other small supporting roles include Jamie Lee Curtis as Deidre and James Hong as Evelyn’s father who is referred to as Gong Gong (Cantonese for grandfather or father-in-law). Curtis’ performance as Deidre is originally fierce and tough as she is the IRS worker auditing Evelyn’s business while also playing a more tender companion to Evelyn in the hot-dog finger universe in a performance that is adorable and hilarious at the same time. On the other hand, Hong is wonderful as Gong Gong. Although his role isn’t as big, he still maintains a strong presence throughout the film as his influence is felt over the Wang Family.
A film like Everything Everywhere All At Once relies heavily on its cinematography and Larkin Seiple’s work is excellent. Having previously worked with the Daniels on their debut feature, Swiss Army Man, Seiple was the natural choice for their follow-up. What he does really well is bringing out the fantasy and supernatural elements from the initially boring setting of the IRS office. The majority of the film’s main plot takes place in the office but we feel as though we are being transported to an alternative universe and this is thanks to Seiple. The scenes in which Evelyn channels her Kung-Fu universe self is particularly excellent as it pays tribute to Yeoh’s career whilst also being exciting and new.
The music by Son Lux marks one of the most exciting soundtracks of the year. Like the film, Son Lux’s score is relentless and unpredictable, never sitting still as we are catapulted between multiple universes, while still maintaining a consistent thread. In a sense, the music showcases another side to Evelyn’s character and perfectly captures the complexities of her character thanks to its mixture of styles and tones from the whimsical track “Wang Family Portrait” to the incredibly intense “Switch Shoes to the Wrong Foot”. It’s a soundtrack that conveys the emotions of the film brilliantly without overwhelming the visual content.
Everything Everywhere All At Once brings together components of modern cinema but combines it in a way that feels fresh and exciting. Brilliantly unpredictable and fearless in vision and execution, the Daniels have succeeded in making the most original film of the year that will be very hard to beat. It wouldn’t be surprising to see this up for multiple gongs come awards season, especially for its screenplay and Michelle Yeoh’s killer leading performance. The film is a wonderful tribute to Yeoh’s previous career, while also catapulting her to mainstream Western audiences who may be unfamiliar with her filmography.
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Everything Everywhere All At Once is out in cinemas now!