Cert – 15, Run-time – 2 hours 19 minutes, Directors – Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Whilst attempting to file her taxes Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) discovers that she is the only person who can save the multiverse from a dark force from another world.
2016’s Swiss Army Man is perhaps, almost certainly, one of the most bonkers films in recent years. Featuring Daniel Radcliffe as a talking, farting corpse with a phallic compass it still manages to holds its fair deal of absurdity. Yet, within that film there’s plenty of heart and warmth when it comes to the central relationship between Radcliffe and Paul Dano’s central characters and the narrative which they follow.
Now, writer-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (more commonly referred to as Daniels) reach much wider than a desert island in taking on the multiverse for their latest feature. However, despite the infinite possibilities and worlds which we could discover, everything that the multiverse has to offer, we largely follow Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), a woman who is simply trying to file her taxes with little hope and success. When a man who claims to be her husband (Ke Huy Quan) from another universe tells her that she is the only person who can save the multiverse and stop a dark force which is trying to kill her – giving her the ability to unlock the skills and knowledge of versions of her in many alternate realities – her response is to simply say that she’s very busy for the day.
Yet, this is a film which features both the most existential everything bagel possible and worlds where people have hot dog fingers. It’s opened up as pretty much everything is opened up and expanded for Evelyn. While still in the confines of the tax audit office – where once the scariest thing was Jamie Lee Curtis’ brilliantly played auditor – she begins to discover what her life could have been like if she had just made one or two small, yet pivotal, decisions and changes. Through this something of a thoughtful, emotional drama begins to play out; particularly in the chaos of the final stages. Taxes aren’t the only stress for the central figure as she tries to steer herself through a potential divorce, trying to prove herself to her father (James Hong), attempting to keep a relationship with her potentially distancing daughter (Stephanie Hsu) and getting ready for a Chinese New Year celebration at her laundromat. It all comes through in Yeoh’s excellent central performance which leads a strong ensemble cast.
Much of this is blended with the finely pieced together action, tracked well by Daniels’ camera and the overall editing of the action sequences. There are multiple layers of amusement to be had with a number of action moments thanks to the humour that’s injected into them and the creativity which spawns it. It simply further shows the creative force that Daniels are through the intense originality of their latest feature. Admittedly, when everything has come together and we reach the ‘all at once’ of the piece things can begin to get a bit much. While we’re still largely in the one central location in our universe we’re jumping back and forth between events in others – progressing the central familial themes that the film subtly holds and develops overtime. With so much going on in these final stages a feeling of overload is neared as a slight feeling of intensity starts to arrive. It doesn’t cause the film to go off the rails, instead it simply feels a bit much ‘all at once’, even if that is the intention.
But, this doesn’t stop the enjoyment from being completely sucked from the film. There’s still plenty to like and be amused by as everything begins to be wrapped up in one gloriously over the top – and yet still fitting and accepted within the world(s) that the film has created – set of events. There are plenty of absurd moments, yet none of them become the central focus of the film. Instead such points are used to progress the narrative and add further detail to the various different worlds of the multiverse, with some simply allowing Evelyn to think about her life and family – and, again, what it could have been like, if only… It’s all well mixed together to allow everything to blend well when it comes to the all at once of the film, even if that does sometimes feel a bit much it doesn’t entirely disconnect with you from the piece. Further helped by the strong performances of the ensemble cast Everything Everywhere All At Once truly shows that Daniels are a strong creative force with plenty of heart within the madness of their features.
Holding a fair deal of absurdity, particularly in the final stages where the ‘all at once’ begins to get a bit much, the madness within Everything Everywhere All At Once is never put centre stage, simply blended as a multiversal element. Allowing for the heart of the finely performed, especially by Michelle Yeoh, familial themes to come through instead.