A life-worn laundromat owner is called on to save the universe in Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Little in the life of Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) has gone as planned. Her business is on the verge of ruin. Her marriage is a joke. Her father (James Hong), whom she cares for, is in and out of awareness, and she just found out that her daughter (Stephanie Hsu) is gay. Her tank is quickly approaching empty with no hint of a gas station anywhere in her foreseeable future. Is this really all that there is? What of the fleeting sense that there could be so much more in her life? It’s then that she’s approached — in the most unexpected way — and told that she’s the only person who can save the entire universe from ultimate domination and destruction. Is this some elaborate joke, or is this her last chance for true salvation?
This is a film that nearly defies explanation. It’s insane. It’s chaotic. It’s life tossed in a blender and set to puree. What starts off as a very simple, mundane story about a stressed-out laundromat owner quickly transforms into a full-on acid trip that might take 20 viewings to fully absorb. It’s a story that challenges you to rethink the status quo. This is The Matrix for a new generation.
The stellar writing and direction come from Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, whose limited previous work together includes the 2016 film Swiss Army Man about a guy who befriends a dead body. Yeah, don’t go looking for a typical rom-com from this pair. Their current effort seems to play across several genres with the reckless abandon of a toddler unleashed into a brand-new park. As the plot deepens, you finally recognize the meticulous method to all of this madness. It’s the Daniels’ (as the pair are known) attention to detail that makes every joke a winner and every serious moment hit home.
The film’s impact is greatly assisted by another exceptional performance from Yeoh. That this woman doesn’t have a wall full of Oscars is a complete shame. She inhabits this role with the ease of syrup rolling over a freshly stacked pile of pancakes, adding nothing but more goodness to an already abundant bounty. I could tell you more about the rest of the cast, but doing so would expose far too many surprises. Yeoh may be the featured performer in this orchestra, but without the rest of the first-rate ensemble, this wouldn’t be half the work of art that it is.
This is a film that will resonate countless ways to countless people, but only for those willing to traverse its world of utter mayhem and pure outrageous disorder. Those willing to let it all wash over them will find a story that leads to a crescendo of unmistakable meaning. It’s a film about being the best you that you can be. It’s about finding your place in life. It’s about appreciating what you have. It’s about taking it all in. It’s about friendship and family. It’s about, well, it’s right in the damn title — everything. This is a wild ride through countless multiverses, and I laughed out loud in every last one of them.