It is rare to watch a film for the first time and know that it will become one of your favorite films of all time. It’s an experience I can only remember twice before, once when I first watched Ex Machina and again when I finally got around to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Last Thursday, I got to have that experience again when I finally watched Everything Everywhere All at Once.
The film tells the story of Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), an aging laundromat owner facing an IRS audit, a failing marriage, a disapproving father and a rift with her daughter. It is at this lowest point that her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) is possessed by another version of himself from an alternate universe, telling Evelyn of a great multiversal threat that only she can stop. That’s where the ride really takes off as Evelyn must tap into alternate versions of herself to fight the powerful forces of the villain Jobu Topaki.
In order to access these other universes, Evelyn, her allies and enemies must commit an absurd act. This opens the door to some bizarre and hilariously ridiculous moments that flawlessly transition into thrilling martial arts choreography.
All at Once is easily one of the most unique and original films in recent memory. Which is odd, as two of the main conceits are almost oversaturated right now: multiverse movies and mother-daughter conflict. Specifically Umma and Turning Red come to mind as they address the daughter of first-generation Asian immigrants clashing with their daughters. But neither rises to the level of All at Once. And there’s zero chance Doctor Strange 2 will ever reach the bizarre heights of multiversal mayhem as a universe where people have hot dogs for fingers.
The film harnesses the multiverse in the best possible way, as an illustration of the infinite possibilities from the smallest changes in our lives. The message is ultimately anti-nihilism, but it succeeds in making the full argument that nothing matters before ripping it to shreds.
The movie manages to be hilarious, heart-mending, absurd and thrilling, all at once. Daniels, the directing team of Daniel Kwan and Dan Scheinert, have really one-upped themselves beyond their debut feature film Swiss Army Man. All at Once brings the same vein of absurd comedy but infuses it into the drama and action in a way that is much more accessible and wildly entertaining. There’s good reason the film is holding as the top-ranked narrative film of all time on Letterboxd.
Yeoh gives a terrific performance, firstly as the prime Evelyn that we’re following, demonstrating her regrets over her many life choices that led her to this moment. And then also as the many other Evelyns across the multiverse that she draws from. It’s critical that Yeoh keeps this story in check for the audience and never lets things spiral from the core of the movie.
Somehow, Quan nearly manages to steal the show though as he gets to have the most fun switching between a goofy and sweet prime Waymond, who seems perpetually confused, and a suave spy operative that delivers a lot of action and explanation. He delivers a sucker punch of emotion in the end of the movie too and is a real contender for best supporting actor.
Stephanie Hsu, who plays Evelyn’s daughter Joy and the villainous Jobu Topaki, shows amazing range and is very important to the message and tone of the film. Jamie Lee Curtis has an absolute blast as IRS agent Deidre, and it’s best left to watch her in the film to get the full effect. She’s always a great time when she’s on screen.
I would loathe to spoil any of the great comedic bits or dramatic turns, so I’m going to stop there. But I highly recommend seeing this movie in theaters. You’ll regret it if you don’t. And I NEED THEM to expand this further nationwide so I can abuse my A-List at a theater closer to me and see this several more times.