Review of Everything Everywhere All at Once

The second feature film released by director duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert tackles themes of generational trauma, mental illness and existential dread without shying away from the mess.

Ollie Koski, A&E Reporter

Through fits of laughter and streams of tears, the 2022 film “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once” presents an experience that movie buffs spend years searching for. This is only the second feature length film released by Daniels—the title for co-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. 

The cast alone should be enough to bring attention. Michelle Yeoh stars as the lead, Evelyn Wang, in a role long deserved to showcase her talents. We are introduced to Evelyn’s unfulfilling life as the co-owner of a struggling laundromat, shared with her husband Waymond Wang—played by Ke Huy Quan in his acting comeback. The couple are joined by their daughter, Joy, played by Stephanie Hsu, and Evelyn’s father, referred to as Gong Gong and played by James Hong. 

The film’s humble beginnings intimately showcase the lives of the small family as they make preparations for a Chinese New Year party. Familiar struggles of financial stress and strained relationships bubble just beneath the surface. Perhaps the audience at this point is expecting the tension to accumulate in a melodramatic argument, but nothing could prepare viewers for what is to come—unless perhaps you have seen the trailer, but I would recommend entering the film without doing so.

We follow the Wang’s to their meeting with an intense IRS inspector, Deirdre, who sports a watch over her arm cast—an energy captured perfectly by Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance. However, Evelyn can not focus, as her consciousness is suddenly being invaded by the multiverse. Yes, that was read correctly. This film quickly transforms into a mishmash of sci-fi, action and comedy. There is hardly a moment to breathe as we follow Evelyn through every version of herself; she is not just a laundromat owner, but a renowned chef, a sign-spinner, a kung-fu master, an accomplished actress. 

 The next two hours take the audience through literally, everything, everywhere, all at once. Just as the title itself, I am being intentionally vague, because the film is jam-packed with quality shock-humor and emotional gut-punches that need to be experienced first-hand. What can be said is that the second half of the film will subvert expectations once again, as Evelyn mourns the lives she could have led, and must learn to embrace the one she chose.

In terms of effects and visuals, the smaller budget of the A24 film is not at all a hindrance. In fact, it has made some of the more experimental feats of cinematography and editing in recent times. There is detail in every choice, whether in the choreography of the fight scenes or the shots that accompany emotional monologues.

 I found myself challenged repeatedly, and the film refreshingly does not force any worldview or expect any answer from its viewer. It presents questions that we have all likely had, perhaps without realizing, and asks us to explore with humility and a light-heart. Despite its existential pondering, there is no air of pretentiousness. At the core of its larger themes, this film is about human connection, and how our relationships with others can create all the meaning we need in this confusing lifetime. 

“Everything, Everywhere, All at Once,” is currently showing in movie theaters nationwide. While I am certainly someone who prefers streaming films from my own bed, this is one worth the ticket fare if you have the opportunity to see it sooner.