by Jacob Wingate-Bishop
Everything Everywhere All At Once is the latest venture from the Daniels (directors and writers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. With a budget of a quarter million – on the low end of motion picture productions in this day and age – it made four times that and has gone to become one of the hottest films of 2022. ‘An expertly calibrated assault on the senses’, Rotten Tomatoes dubs it, awarding it an impressive 95% rating. And every word of that is right.
I went into watching this film with high expectations. I only read up one review ahead of time, but it was that of Mark Kermode, who had nothing but sheer praise for it as a piece of cinema, going so far as it crown it the ‘better multiverse movie’ when compared to Doctor Strange’s recent sequel.
I have to agree with him. Everything Everywhere All at Once is one of the finest films I have seen in a long time; it moves like some ornate, steam-powered clock, teeming with cogs and bristling with complex, constantly shuddering and shifting pieces. Yet every part is thoroughly oiled, every piece rotates as it should. It a staggeringly well-crafted movie, with outlandish humour that lands every time.
The premise itself is fairly believable, for a film about universes which involve hot dogs for fingers. The Multiverse isn’t really what the film’s about at all – more a backdrop to the actual plot, which proves a beautiful, poignant look into the fragility of familial relations. For mothers and daughters alike, this movie will provide more than a tissue’s worth of tears. And probably for everyone else, too.
But between every heart-wrenching revelation and family bust-up, the Multiverse provides some much-needed comic relief, which has been executed with the precision of a keyhole surgeon. The movie knows when to ease up, and when to put the comical pedal down to the max. The varied number of worlds are implemented well, serving as catalysts for ways in which the main characters can get out of situations, or retaliate to an increasingly bizarre situation.
The dialogue is so, so human, the acting is some of the most believable I’ve ever seen – with Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu and Ke Huy Quan all delivering award-winning performances. And overall, the film knows what it wants to be. It sets out with a clear goal in mind and achieves it effortlessly. There’s an awareness when it comes to making a movie of multiple genres – add too many ill-timed jokes and a horror comedy has no bite to it. Apply a touch too much hard-hitting realism and a drama doesn’t know if it wants to be entertaining, or a political statement – and this film has that awareness in bucketloads. A real finesse in uniting the conventions of drama, comedy and science fiction.
Like the all-consuming centrepiece of Everything Everywhere All At Once, this film merges those elements together meticulously, without it becoming some congealed, cosmic mess. At the heart of it, it tells a human story about family, and a mother’s relationship with her daughter. It’s touchingly real, no matter how many goofy fight scenes and laugh-out-loud alternate realities the movie throws at us. You howl out loud one minute and sob melodramatically the next.
The Multiverse pops up enough now to have its own movie genre. And it’s a great idea – one that seems less and less unbelievable as science advances – but as with all conceptual booms in media, many attempts at utilizing it don’t stand the test of time. Oh, here we go, another movie about someone waking up in a parallel universe. Original.
This one, though? I can see myself genuinely returning to it ten years later and laughing once more, crying all over again. You don’t need to be a science fiction fan to fall in love with the pseudo-scientific premise. You don’t need to love comedies to revel in the irreverence of Everything Everywhere All at Once. You don’t even need a child to shed a tear at the familial drama. It has something for everyone, and at a time when Hollywood seems more and more preoccupied with the bigger and the flashier, dredging up beloved classics and slathering them in computer-generated glimmer, this a film that can call itself unique. Brilliant. And utterly, utterly bonkers.