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Everything Everywhere All At Once  

Written and directed by the Daniels (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert)

Review by Danielle Papamichael


The writer and director duo the Daniels (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) don’t hold back when it comes to creating films that are beyond this world. Unconventionally, by merging the mundane with the absurd, they have been able to tackle life’s most profound questions whilst being playful in the process. 

In 2016, the Daniels showcased their debut feature Swiss Army Man, a bizarre black comedy adventure about a suicidal man (Paul Dano) who, while stranded on an island, befriends a farting corpse (Daniel Radcliffe). By choosing not to be confined by a particular genre, they were able to tell a layered story, one that was ludicrous and outlandish but beneath the surface also an intimate portrayal of humanity. 

The sci-fi/adventure film, Everything Everywhere All At Once, the duos expansive multiverse epic, also explores core domestic issues such as identity, marriage, generational trauma and information overload in the digital age. Although the Daniels have designed an explosive cinematic experience, one that attempts to blow the viewer’s mind in every frame, its a decision that almost becomes its downfall. An exhilarating start loses its novelty by the end, as alternate realities overshadow character-led storylines.

The film begins with a Chinese American family, owners of a laundromat, whose business is undergoing an IRS government audit. Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), the exhausted and impatient protagonist is discontented with her life. Her optimistic, ‘glass half fullhusband, Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan), feels neglected by her and wants a divorce. Meanwhile their alienated daughter, Joy Wang (Stephanie Hsu), struggles with her mothers dismissiveness of her gay sexuality and lack of interest in getting to know her. 

Theres the further complication of Evelyn’s elderly father, Gong Gong (James Hong), who openly disapproves of Evelyn’s decision to move to America and has flown in at the same time as the Wangs’ dreaded appointment with IRS agent Deidre Beaubeidra (Jamie Lee Curtis). 

In the lift at the tax office, as the pressure mounts before their business’s audit, the seemingly meek Waymond suddenly undergoes a transformation into a confident version of himself who inhabits another universe. Assertive Waymond reveals to Evelyn that she is, in fact, ‘the one’ destined to save the multiverse from the all-powerful nihilistic ‘verse jumper’, Jobu Tupaki.

In the Daniels’ take on the multiverse, a new universe is formed every time someone deviates from their path, creating an infinite number of alternative possibilities. 

Evelyn, who has never persevered with any of her passions, is able to jump into her several alternate life paths and obtain the necessary skills for combat. In doing so, she glimpses the great potentials of her life, a vision that fuels her existential crisis. 

Everything Everywhere All At Once may be self-indulgent at times; universe jumping and kung fu fight scenes feel more like a director’s showreel than plot points. That said, the Daniels have created an ambitiously entertaining film. They tackle the multiverse with confidence and hilarity whilst also making a heroic, immigrant family drama. The overwhelming contradictions and complexities of modern life are overcome with kindness. And the audience is left with the heartfelt message – if nothing really matters, you might as well be your true self.