Once you see the initial scenes of Everything Everywhere All at Once, you’d never believe that this quietly starting movie could contain all this madness and brilliance.
The first time we heard about the movie was through some tweets. It was strongly recommended by some people saying that it is a movie about superheroes. Still, it beats the Marvel and DC universes, and the heroine’s superpower is to travel between universes and acquire any skill she wants to fight enemies.
Everything Everywhere All at Once was released in March 2022 in the US. It is produced by A24 Studios, directed and written by Dan Quan and Daniel Schenert, and the cast includes Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis, Stephanie Hsu, and James Hong.
Content Warning: The following article may contain spoilers for the movie Everything Everywhere All at Once.
Everything Everywhere All at Once Summary
During its three chapters, the film tells multiple stories that also take place in multiple universes. It is a story about the marriage between Evelyn and her husband, Waymond, the motherhood between Evelyn and her daughter Joy, and the friendship between Evelyn and Deirdre Beauberdra.
In the opening scene, we meet Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) as she enjoys a happy moment with her husband, (Ke Huy Quan), and their daughter, (Stephanie Hsu).
We see their smiling faces reflected in a mirror hanging on the living room wall. As the camera pans across the mirror, we find Evelyn sitting at a desk full of receipts, her smile faded and her face exhausted.
Evelyn is a mother who runs the family’s laundry, takes care of her ailing elderly father, tries to get rid of a tax office worker, and avoids her daughter’s troubles. Through all this, we see the apathy that permeated her relationship with her husband, with whom she chose life in the United States and left her family behind in China.
Evelyn tries to cling to the happy image of her family, even if this is no longer true. She does not accept that her daughter is gay, that her relationship with her husband has become frosty, or that work at the laundromat is not going well.
When the daughter tries to show her true self in public, the mother resists and rejects it completely. The husband puts the divorce papers in Evelyn’s hands, although he does not want to separate. The tax employee sees that Evelyn is deceiving her and practising many activities in her store without announcing them in order to evade taxes.
See all these complications? This is just the appetiser for the real plot, as all that comes next is madness and grandeur. We will follow later what turned this poor, exhausted woman into a superhero in a multiverse.
Everything Everywhere All at Once Plot
As mentioned earlier, the plot of Everything Everywhere All at Once begins with Evelyn’s laundry teetering on the brink of failure, her marriage cracking and weakening over time, and the relationship with her daughter following in the footsteps of Evelyn’s own fractured relationship with her parents. Amidst it all, Evelyn and her husband, Waymund, have an unpleasant bureaucratic meeting with the stern tax official. In the elevator, shortly before the meeting, Evelyn becomes ill with a strange and unusual condition, and the film takes off to strange and crazy horizons.
Suddenly, Alpha Weymond appears to Evelyn, who tells her that he is her husband, but in a universe parallel to her own, and tells her that there is a great danger that will destroy everything and that he wants to help her to save herself and all her copies in the multiverse. The danger that we will know later is a person named Gobo Tobaki. She is an apprentice who was supposed to receive more training due to her unique abilities. But what Gobo received was too much, and that’s when her mind broke, and she was able to move between all universes, experimenting with all possibilities and destroying everything.
At that point, confusion prevails, as Evelyn is confused and lost and cannot digest what is happening to her, especially since she is on the brink of a vital meeting for her business and needs to focus while we, the audience, are also confused and don’t know what’s going on yet.
Everything Everywhere All at Once Elements
They say there is a fine line between genius and madness. But the movie Everything Everywhere All at Once came to remove barriers and blend genius with madness in a concentrated dose of dazzling randomness with deep meanings. Let’s analyse the creative elements of the film separately.
Filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (The Daniels) walked a line sharper than a sword and thinner than a hair when they set out to write and direct Everything Everywhere All at Once, but they amazed us with their virtuosity, nailed it completely, and conducted the orchestra harmoniously.
One simple mistake could have spoiled everything and turned the film into an unforgettable disaster instead of becoming one of the flagships of the film industry. The Daniels managed to write an epic drama despite the complexity of the stories and possibilities. They captured the frantic feel of the Internet age and what it means for each of us to live in our own bubble. They created a chaotic world that manipulates attention between different things, but they succeeded in making us focus on what they wanted.
We cannot forget the aesthetics of the dialogue and how the characters expressed themselves with sincerity that was never intrusive or pretentious. Genius and madness reach their highest point in the movie’s second act, “Everywhere”, in the dialogue between the two rocks.
Because of the overlapping and ramifications of the story, the film had to be edited differently than usual. The truth is that from the first minute, we see that editing is the hero of the film. This conviction was formed due to the flexibility and smoothness with which editing was able to provide us with such a large number of fast and successive scenes and how the single scene was cut many times per second, yet the movement between universes was wonderful and made with great precision and craftsmanship.
It doesn’t stop here; we find that there is an amazing synchronisation and matching between the music and the mood. Of course, this is not the visual effects that can be a lesson in how to make movies.
With the Daniels outsourcing the score to Son Lux (Ryan Lott, Rafik Bhatia and Ian Chang), the trio pull off an unforgettable soundtrack and balances the film’s fast-paced scenes.
The music of the movie Everything Everywhere All at Once was an important element in many scenes, especially those that do not take place in our primary world. It was a compass that guides us in what we are supposed to feel in these worlds that are completely new to us.
The composer trio has crafted a musical mosaic of more than 100 musical cues, rearranged into 49 detailed tracks. They also paid homage to traditional Chinese music and classic martial arts cinema by adding a touch of Chinese paigu drums.
The film gave us many characters, and the actors were able to transition seamlessly between them and convey the feeling of each character as if another skilled actor were performing it. Let’s get acquainted with some of the characters:
- Evelyn Wang: She may be the protagonist, but Evelyn didn’t start out as the most popular character; she was introduced to us as a stressed wife and troublesome mother who has lost much of her personal sparkle. So her transformation, in the end, was very satisfying to watch.
- Waymond Wang: At first, we see him through Evelyn’s eyes, so we have some negative opinions of him, but he slowly proves how wrong we are and succeeds in winning our hearts.
- Joy Wang: A character in a conflict between her family and the one she loves. She values her mother but tries desperately to express her anger at the way she treats her.
- Alpha Waymond Wang: When you watch this character, you feel that he is really the updated Waymond Wang, With elaborate action scenes, abilities and skills that are fun to watch.
- Jobu Tupaki: Despite the character’s violent rampage and atrocities in the multiverse, you can’t help feeling sympathetic to her at some point.
- Deirdre Beaubeirdre: At first, that character gives us a hard time, as is the case with the Wang family, but as the story goes, you find yourself able to understand where she’s coming from in a weird way.
- Gong Gong and Alpha Gong Gong: The two are similar in that they are demanding, closed-minded and always try to get in and do things their way.
Make-Up and Costumes
Producing a movie as insane as Everything Everywhere All at Once was not easy economically due to the limited resources of independent film. Nevertheless, its makers succeeded in presenting an integrated film that competes with the largest-budget films.
In the Costume item, Shirley Korata succeeded in designing the characters’ clothes while they jumped between the multiverse, and she was able to reach the essence of madness and translate what the Daniels wanted to convey to us. She also modified the appearance of each character to suit the universe they are in and the events they are going through.
As for the hair and makeup, Anissa E. Salazar and Michelle Chung did a great job and were able to create a difference between the features of each character in that multiverse, and their work was wonderfully matched with the costumes.
Everything Everywhere All at Once Meaning
What is interesting about films like Everything Everywhere All at Once is that each of us is able to interpret them according to his vision and what is going on inside us. For me, Evelyn’s story is the story of all of us; no matter what our lives are like, we are always faced with hundreds of decisions, thousands of possibilities, and millions of ways. It is a story of “what if in the first place, what if I did this?, what if I did not do this?” Dozens, thousands, millions of possibilities that make up us.
The film is about human psychology and the impact of our decisions on us. However, there is another pivotal point in the story, which is the dark side of knowledge and excessive awareness, drowning in the terrifying amount of information in our time and ignoring simple basics such as the importance of true human communication. For example, with Gobo in the film, we can compare it with an educated thinker who read a lot and learned more and came to the conviction that everything that happens is meaningless.
The essence and beauty of the movie’s message came from Waymond’s character. After two hours of fast-paced action, Wimond yells at his wife, at her enemies, at the modern world and at us, too, that he knows we are all fighting because we are afraid and confused and that when he tries to see the good side of things, it’s not because he is weak but because it is his weapon to face life and its cruelty.
What’s Special About Everything Everywhere All at Once?
Although it’s not the first time we’ve seen the multiverse, and the movie was inspired by some scenes and ideas from The Matrix and influenced by action scenes in Jackie Chan’s films, it’s still a very authentic piece of art. It is a new work in every way—even when it used old films, it exploited it in a creative new way.
In Everything Everywhere All at Once, we are seeing a new product that is amazingly in tune with our times, similar to its madness and strangeness.
As for the criticisms of the film, it was limited to describing it as cluttered with ideas, that it lacks subtlety in the narrative, or that it should have been a full TV series.
Critical Reception of Everything Everywhere All at Once
Everything Everywhere All at Once was the ace card that trumped everything award season. It has won more than 157 awards, from the Golden Globes to the BAFTAs, and has received 11 Academy Award nominations, including wins for:
- Best Picture Award
- Best Director Award
- Best Actress Award in a Leading Role
- Best Actress Award in a Supporting Role
- Best Actor in a Supporting Role Award
- Best Editing Award
- Best Original Screenplay Award
You should not miss the opportunity to watch Everything Everywhere All at Once, as it is a love letter to the cinema and family. It is a work of art that affirms that love and finding joy are all that matters in life. The movie is a modern masterpiece that was executed on a limited budget and with the help of some amateurs and non-professionals. Despite that, it is a distinguished experience of original writing, exceptional performance, and genius editing. All this makes it a masterpiece that transcends madness and genius.