Every year, one film usually stuns at the annual Academy Awards, rising above the competition to claim several of the highest awards in the filmmaking industry. This year, directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” was that film, raking in seven Oscars total, including Best Picture, Best Directing and three individual awards for Best Acting.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” follows Evelyn Wang and her husband Waymond, two Chinese immigrants who run a failing laundromat alongside their daughter Joy.
During a meeting with an IRS agent to discuss their various debts, an alternate version of Waymond infiltrates the fabric of reality to recruit Evelyn in a multiversal war that will determine the fate of all realities. Called Alpha Waymond, this version of Evelyn’s husband comes from the Alphaverse, the universe where multiversal travel was first discovered by none other than an alternate version of Evelyn herself.
Using a headset to transfer skills between alternate versions of oneself, Evelyn and Alpha Waymond must fight to save all realities from Jobu Tupaki, an ageless tyrant with the unique ability to inhabit alternate versions of herself on a whim and without the headset’s use. Tupaki aims to end all realities and create a void containing everything and nothing.
It is all a lot to take in, and the suggestion of the film’s title begins to hold weight as the plot unfolds. A lot is happening, and the threat of buckling under that weight is ever-present. Were it not for the careful direction and passionate filmmaking of Kwan and Scheinert — collectively called The Daniels — perhaps the film would buckle, but their efforts and, of course, the impressive performances throughout allow the film to blossom into a beautifully weird journey of self-discovery, cultural expectation and intergenerational strife.
At the heart of this journey is Evelyn’s relationship with her family — the distance she feels growing between herself and Waymond, the residual strife she feels with her elderly father Gong Gong and, most centrally, the expectations she has of her daughter, Joy, as they only grow further and further apart. The regret Evelyn feels for her past decisions permeates this journey and informs the decisions she actively makes in her reality and across the multiverse. In the face of this regret, though, she must come to understand the joys of everyday life even against the temptation of what could have been and, should she fall to the temptations of Tupaki, what can be.
As mentioned, the actors of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” elevate the film. Michelle Yeoh delivers a singular performance as Evelyn, bringing to life the experiences of an immigrant mother looking to make right on many fronts. Ke Huy Quan, who found childhood fame in roles in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “The Goonies,” brings the film’s best performance as the timid but resolute Waymond, whose selflessness is his ultimate strength. Stephanie Hsu delivers the most varied performance as Joy, whose emotional range is worthy of the Oscar she was denied. Jamie Lee Curtis as Dierdre, the dispassionate but ultimately empathetic IRS agent, is comparably ranged in terms of her comedic delivery. Yeoh, Quan and Curtis received the Oscars for Best Leading Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.
The best films are those where, despite the complexity of their narrative subject matter, the themes are simple and easily accessible to an audience, regardless of age, background or experience. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” features multiversal wars and reality-jumping tyrants, but what is it really about? Love, enduring and unconditional. Informing every moment of ridiculousness — and there are several — is the theme of love, making for an end product that is endlessly uplifting and may even be transformative. 5/5 googly eyes