There are few films projected onto your local cinema screen that leave you feeling like every second you spent in that theater was worthwhile. Where you can concede that the film did everything in its power to faithfully execute its creators’ vision; to provide you with compelling characters and leave you feeling satisfied with the tumultuous 140 minutes it spent throwing you through the ringer. This film is heart-pounding, heartaching, and heartwarming. Have a cardiologist on standby, because Everything Everywhere All at Once tests the limits of rapid and emotional storytelling.
This film follows the story of a woman named Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) who gets stuck in a collision of multiple realities, learning hardening truths about herself and who she is. In essence, this is a purely character driven narrative, though not so much a character study per se, but a film that aims to keep characters at the forefront of its story. I feel it’s necessary to emphasize the importance of this, as the key word everyone will circulate about this film will be multiverses, and less so about character. In fairness, you can’t talk about this film without mentioning its multiverses, I myself will cover them later on, but it’s not just the multiverses that drive this story forward to make it compelling, it’s the characters. This film is about so much more than its quirky plotpoint. In many ways, this film is about everything; from the life we lead, who we are, and what it all means. So yes, this is practically an odyssey film, in fact, this IS an odyssey film. In conceit, it’s no different to something like Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (2011), minus of course the vagaries and allegory that make that film so inaccessible.
In fact, Everything Everywhere All at Once stands in stark contrast to The Tree of Life (2011), it feels almost designed specifically to thrive in the landscape of modern filmmaking. It has a cartoonishly fast pace, almost akin to a superhero flick that’s trying to cram in a mountain’s worth of world-building within a short period. Its dazzling colors, flashy stunt sequences, and rapidly changing sets fulfill your brain’s need for instant gratification. There’s barely a shot that isn’t moving, flashing, or expressing itself in some extra way. Hardly surprising given the films not-so-subtle title. On top of this, as mentioned, this film is mounted knee-deep in multiverse shenanigans, a narrative element seen more commonly in your typical superhero flick nowadays. But make no mistake, aside from its speed, energy, and multiverses, this film has almost nothing in common with your regularly scheduled Marvel flick. Writer-directors The Daniel’s drastically different approach to storytelling leave this film feeling entirely foreign to anything Marvel related. So yes, while it feels unmistakably modern, it holds none of the dead weight that these manufactured modern films typically drag behind them. This film feels fresh, despite its overwhelming speed and colorful aesthetic.
Everything Everywhere All at Once also has a millennial-like quality to it; its characters obsess over breakfast food, struggle deeply with identity, life fulfilment, and their place in the world. Now, of course, these sorts of struggles aren’t solely applicable to just the millennial generation, they’re universal for anyone who has endured the hurt of feeling shortchanged by the game of life. With that said; the energy, pace, and quirky style of this film may not track as reliably for more unhurried generations – as one requires ample excess energy to keep up with this films constantly branching and increasingly entangled narrative structure. This film can simply get quite overwhelming, I myself felt a tad worn out by the time the credits were rolling. Everything Everywhere All at Once balances out this complex narrative structure with an aggressively simple three-act structure, complete with labeled chapters so the viewer even has a sense of direction. Greatly needed, given each scene melds indistinguishably into the next.
But all of this film’s energy can only be convincing if there’s the right visual-audio experience to accompany it. DOP Larkin Seiple deploys an agile form of camera movement to adapt to this film’s erratic nature. The camera moves with haste when Michelle Yeoh begins her regularly scheduled martial arts sequences and tightens up on characters faces when things start getting really trippy, which is every 30 seconds. This film employs so many different styles of camerawork that it hardly does justice nor does it make sense for me to list them all here. Simply, the adaptability and artistic range that cinematographer Larkin Seiple has on offer is nearly as impressive as the storytelling itself; again, living up to the name of this film’s title. From a musical perspective this film combines both a score and intermittent soundtrack that briefly rears its head from time to time. The thing to understand about this film is that it’s constantly moving, there are rare moments that stay in one place for an extended period of time, thus there are rare opportunities to take advantage of a full musical piece. But in those rare moments, when the camera is not moving, when the characters remain stationary – the music shines; elevating the emotional payoff and heightening the bombastic energy of the respective scene.
Everything Everywhere All at Once may already be the best film of 2022; a riveting journey that deeply satiates my hunger for something new, strange, and narratively satisfying. Michelle Yeoh truly cements her legacy in film here by compiling components of her career into this wacky narrative. But it’s The Daniel’s that mastermind this film and the production team that trusted them enough to make this film a reality. This is the rare flick that can genuinely make you feel everything, all at once.