The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been playing in multiverses for the latest Phase (Loki, What If?, Spider Man: No Way Home), recently culminating in the dire and disappointing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. This interdimensional playground is usually reserved for superheroes and Time Lords, but Everything Everywhere subverts the trend and opens the concept to the head of a laundrette.
Jamie Lee Curtis as tax worker Deirdre. Photo: Premier
Evelyn (a brilliantly baffled Michelle Yeoh) is a middle-aged, first-generation Chinese-American, already drifting between linguistic worlds. She endures the mundane trials of running a business, suffers a schism with her frustrated daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu), and unknowingly awaits divorce papers from her ‘silly husband’ Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). On top of that, she has to pass a torturous tax audit by an impatient Jamie Lee Curtis.
Out of nowhere (well, in a lift) her husband transforms into his ‘Alphaverse’ variant, instructing her to follow certain paths and balance out the multiverse. Immediately, Everything Everywhere launches you into an unpredictable pace and scatters you across a million possibilities. Along the way, teleporting through different versions of herself, Evelyn faces adversaries and learns to fight them via a slew of kung-fu capabilities. All while denying that any of this makes sense.
Yes, it is a confusing cacophony of surreal images, multiversal variations, and seemingly anarchic diversions. But filmmakers Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (or 'the Daniels'), whose debut film Swiss Army Man featured Daniel Radcliffe as a farting corpse, never fear the film's perplexities. While the disorientated Evelyn is like the rest of us, the Waymond variant is a grippingly funny guiding hand.
Left to right: Joy (Stephanie Hsu), Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) and Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). Photo: Premier
Inside the emerging Daniels trademark of extreme sensory overload – spread with phallic nunchuks and hot-dog fingers – is a touching, existential story. Evelyn has a midlife crisis bolstered by Jobu Tupaki, the most feared and powerful presence in the multiverse. The former's unfulfilling existence becomes miniaturised after experiencing many, more successful, versions of herself.
But the film’s adage of ‘nothing matters’ sprouts from crushing ennui to cheerful abandon without removing its depressing exterior. It relishes a contented reality while embracing the infinite, inescapable void. Everything Everywhere holds an ideal balance: it's a drop of love in a hopeless sea.
With the first viewing, you’re preoccupied with the complicated branches of the multiverse. Most of the emotional weight is concentrated in the latter half, where its more human side strikes the hardest. But on a second viewing, with all those character dynamics (mostly) understood, its poignancy bleeds back into the beginning – forming a whole that's even more fulfilling.
The Daniels don't push hard enough into their more extraneous characters, but Everything Everywhere is still an affecting, adventurous experience unparalleled in its weirdness. It faces up to the scale of an uncaring cosmos with the gravity of human kindness, making you laugh through tears at the loveable pointlessness of it all.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is in UK cinemas now.
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13 May 22 – 13 May 23, IN CINEMAS
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