Six years after Swiss Army Man, writer directors Daniel “Dan” Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (who also directed the excellent comedy-drama The Death of Dick Long on his own) offer a bizarre new introspective genre-bender that proves that the pair are amongst the most unique and talented filmmakers working today. However after a five year production process, the Daniel’s couldn’t have possibly anticipated the Hollywood titans they would be pitting themselves against. Who knew Multiverses were to become so chic? Yet the indie directors might just have the edge over the competition.
Evelyn Quan Wang (Michelle Yeoh) is on the verge of losing everything, and to make matters worse she’s not even sure she wants any of it. Having run away from her family as a young woman with her husband-to-be Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), Evelyn finds herself co-owner of a struggling laundromat business facing an audit and possibly a divorce. To make matters even worse, she is struggling to understand her daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu) who is failing to meet her expectations. All of this is turned on it’s head when Evelyn is made aware that she is living in just one of an infinite number of parallel universes that mirror but differ from her reality. She is tasked with defeating a powerful entity that threatens the future of all realities.
Everything Everywhere All At Once sees the Daniels amplify their vision but without losing any of their unique style and bizarre humour. Jumping around the multiverses via unusual behaviour allows for a myriad of strange possibilities, and the Daniels take full advantage of this potential. From worlds where people have hot dogs instead of hands, to a world where a talented racoon is able to Ratatouille an aspiring chef, to a world where life never formed and everyone is still a rock, the film has an uninhibited, stream-of-consciousness humour that is mischievous and thrilling. To call the film unpredictable is understatement, and the madcap premises are matched by inventive aesthetics. The film was made on a relatively low budget, but the scope of the vision is so ambitious and the filmmaking so innovative, the film effortlessly surpasses it’s bigger cinematic siblings.
But the film is now aimless. In fact it’s a tightly structured, and at heart fairly conventional tale of parental understanding. Evelyn is struggling with the enormity of the potential her life had and the painful belief that she has squandered her potential. Meanwhile her daughter is so overwhelmed by the world and it’s possibilities that she has become jaded, believing that nothing matters. This belief frees her from her mothers expectations but also leaves her without moral or cultural foundations. The multiverse concept has been flawlessly married to the emotional and ideological core of the film, the sprawling fantasy narrative perfectly complimenting the character journey at the heart of the film. To not get lost in the madness is truly impressive.
Michelle Yeoh is the anchor for the audience as well as a comedic, silly and compelling lead. Her journey from world-weary underachiever to enlightened warrior with all the spiritual and personal struggles along the way is truly epic. Her husband Waymond is played by the Ke Huy Quan, an actor familiar to fans of 80s films as Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Data in The Goonies. He has been absent from screens for around twenty years but returns as an effortlessly endearing man capable of remarkable physical feats. Stephanie Hsu plays Evelyn’s daughter Joy with an energetic malice but is also affectingly earnest. The cast avail themselves wonderfully and keep the film grounded in real emotion.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is a truly ambitious piece of filmmaking. It is a madcap comedy with some wild turns that would make Rick and Morty seem tame, but is also a beautiful exploration of a mother-daughter schism and a thoughtful mediation on potential and regret. That the film manages to be so thought-provoking yet entertaining, so particular yet universal, so bizarre and yet involving, is a powerful demonstration of the talent of the Daniels.