It was a foregone conclusion when Swiss Army Man (2016) came out that the directing duo ‘The Daniels’, Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, have a real talent for off-beat, unexpected stories with surprising emotional stakes. Well, the two have done it again and exceeded expectations with their sophomore outing, Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022), an action comedy starring an ensemble cast consisting of Michele Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis and Jenny Slate.
Everything Everywhere All At Once revolves around a meek business owner Evelyn Wang (Michele Yeoh), who (after a chance encounter) discovers that there are infinite versions of her in as many universes. With a daughter who is estranged and a husband who is about to divorce her, Evelyn soon finds her troubles brewing further as the IRS begins investigating her laundry business. With Evelyn pushed in from all sides, she has no choice but to embrace the fantastical possibility that the multiverse presents before her. Her troubles only begin, as a horrific evil mastermind, fueled with the fire of rage and revenge, hops across every universe to kill every version of her. Desperate and alone, the original Evelyn will have to choose between family and saving the world if she is to rise above her potential and fix her life in the process.
‘The Daniels’ have delivered a film that not only feels fresh but also tackles the science fiction concepts of multiverses and parallel identities really well. Perfectly balancing drama, tragedy and comedy; the film is a breath of fresh air in the theatrical landscape littered by caped crusaders, animated characters and wizards. From its first moment, the film sucks you into the fantastical and never lets go; each passing moment brings a cascade of challenges for Evelyn who has to step out of her comfort zone every time in order to have a chance at survival. In addition, where the film really surprises is in its infusion of comedy. The makers have managed to inject a multitude of comedic moments throughout the narrative with each joke feeling more original than the last.
Nowhere is the film’s novelty more apparent than in the fact that it is as inspired by the kung fu films of Asian action cinema as it is by time travel stories of some of the greatest films out of Hollywood. In addition, the editing is fantastic, giving the audience a rapid sense of multiple characters in multiple dimensions without making everything so tedious. Juggling a large assortment of characters and storylines makes the narrative risk falling into an information overload of sorts but here, Dan and Daniel balance every aspect with an auteur like sensibility, creatively using audio visual tricks up their sleeves in this regard. The visual effects are a sight to behold and it is shocking to discover that all the effects were made by a team of five people which included the two directors. Kudos to the directors for juggling close to a dozen unique characters and their iterations to make a film that does not for a second feel overwhelming.
While Evelyn, played by Michele Yeoh, is the star on which the entire narrative rests, equally praiseworthy is Stephenie Hsu as her daughter Joy. We are given a peek into the conflict between mother and daughter in the opening moments of the film and this antagonistic relationship turns into a full blown war as the narrative proceeds. Kudos to the creative film for handling the nuances of the mother-daughter relationship in such a fresh manner. This conflict is the emotional centre of the entire story and not once does it waiver or yield. In addition, any talk of this film will not be complete without mentioning James Hong as Evelyn’s father and Ke Huy Quan as the husband. Pulling double duty of both comedic relief and emotional drama, the two characters are not as terrific as the leads, they also steal some of the scenes that they are in.
Arguably the most famous Asian film since Crazy Rich Asians some years ago, Everything Everywhere All At Once is another celebratory milestone for Asian cinema. The film’s continually growing box office and widespread acclaim amongst audiences will not only lead to more Asian led films being made, it will provide actors of Asian descent with greater opportunities in the industry as well. With Asian Americans coming out in larger numbers for films such as Shang Chi and Crazy Rich Asians, Hollywood can impress the demographic with authentic films that hit close to both home and heart.
An action packed time hopping adventure that blows every film this year out of the water, Everything Everywhere All At Once is not only a glorious action film but also a very emotional and heartfelt film about the importance of family. With not a single dull moment throughout its runtime, the film is unique enough to stand on its own two feet. Rightly hailed by critics as one of the best films of the year, Everything Everywhere All At Once is a colourful extravaganza of action and heart that exceeds all expectations. The film is not only highly entertaining but is also expected to sweep the Oscars as well early next year.
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