Directing duo “The Daniels”, comprised of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, have slowly made a name for themselves by building a body of absurdist work. Whether it’s the 2013’s viral music video Turn Down for What or their more recent Swiss Army Man (2016) you can’t argue the Daniels like to keep it weird. But their latest mouthful of an outing, Everything Everywhere All at Once, solidifies that there’s more to the directors than just wackiness.
Everything Everywhere All at Once follows the story of first-generation Chinese immigrant Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) who is juggling the slow failure of her laundromat business, her fading marriage to husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) and her distant daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu). On a potentially life-changing trip to a tax audit, Evelyn is swept up into an multiversal adventure and finds the fate of Everything might be resting on her shoulders.
Every actor or actress in the movie brings their best to the table. Yeoh is great as every version of Evelyn and Ke Huy Quan, in his first on-screen performance in a long time, balances Waymond’s goofy optimism with Alpha Waymond’s serious action man persona. Stephanie Hsu is a joy as Joy, and a special mention goes to Jamie Lee Curtis for playing the loathsome IRS inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdre. The whole cast, really, is commendable for their ability to elevate the (already good) material and do a great job of selling the wildly different versions of the characters they play.
While avoiding specifics, I can say that the plot of the movie is engaging at every turn. Helped along by the fantastic performances, the film really endears its characters to you and that connection makes the story hit even harder. I’m not usually one for tearing up in a film but, even on a second watch, Everything Everywhere got me a couple of times: The fact that the film manages to balance this with the Daniels’ absurdist / surrealist humour is nothing short of masterful.
The cinematography is all top-notch, doing a great job of matching both performers and script in the wild variety of tones and styles. Whether it’s a parody of martial-arts montage, a touching moment between two reunited lovers or a beautiful landscape shot, there’s plenty to feast your eyes on during the film.
Son Lux’s experimental, strange soundtrack is marvellous. It’s the kind of soundtrack that works well with every given sequence it’s in, yet you might not remember specific songs from: Some might call that a negative, I see it as a testament to the symbiosis achieved between visuals and soundtrack.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a film that is somewhat hard to commend while keeping things vague; suffice to say it feels like a very special movie. There is so much to unpack, and so much the movie does right, that it’s the perfect “Film studies” movie (and not in the stuffy-old-classic kind of way). Like The Lighthouse (2019) it thoroughly impressed me and shot straight on to my favourites list, and anyone who knows me will tell you that’s high praise indeed. Many people will find different elements of this to enjoy or connect with, but for me the whole film works together to produce a beautiful piece of cinema about family, the meaning of life and what we choose to do with it.
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