The “multiverse” is the latest, hot sci-fi idea saturating our screens, giving us the novelty of Spider-Men uniting and the upcoming return of Michael Keaton as Batman. However, it’s never been quite as action-packed, hilarious, heartbreaking and life-affirming as “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the latest film from the directing duo of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, known collectively as Daniels.
The film centers on Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a middle-aged Chinese-American immigrant who owns a struggling laundromat, which is undergoing an audit from the IRS, with her husband. As if that wasn’t stressful enough for Evelyn, her disapproving father is visiting from China and she’s also coming to terms with her daughter’s sexuality, who in turn, just wants her mother to accept her and her girlfriend.
Oh, and the multiverse is falling apart because of a malignant force hell-bent on revenge.
Fans of Disney’s recent animated outputs “Encanto” and “Turning Red” will find similar themes of generational trauma and crushing expectations here, but neither of those films have a fight sequence where the goal is to play keep-away with a sex toy.
While the multiverse aspects of the film are certainly what drive the plot forward, at its core, the film never loses sight of Evelyn and her real-world struggles.
Yeoh, of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Crazy Rich Asians” fame (in the United States, that is, as she’s had over 50 film roles, most of which were in Hong Kong), plays the role of Evelyn masterfully. She brings the necessary physicality to the role, which features her character learning various forms of martial arts via an interdimensional mind-meld.
But more importantly, she brings a real, genuine tenderness to the role with the weight of all Evelyn’s stresses as a daughter, wife and mother coming through in every aching moment of Yeoh’s beautiful performance. A lesser performer may have struggled with making Evelyn a sympathetic character or failed to portray her varying degrees of language fluency across the multiverse, but Yeoh makes it look easy.
Rounding out the supporting cast is Ke Huy Quan, who some may recognize as a grown-up Data from “The Goonies,” as Evelyn’s husband, Waymond Wang.
Quan balances a great mix of comedic timing, physical prowess and the tender sadness of a man lost in his own love. There is also the hilarious James Hong as Gong Gong, who makes the most out of the small but pivotal role of Evelyn’s father, as well as Jamie Lee Curtis, whose IRS agent Deirdre Beaubeirdra provides some of the funniest moments in the film, both deadpan and slapstick.
Last but certainly not least, Stephanie Hsu plays Joy Wang, Evelyn’s first-generation American daughter, who is the emotional crux of the film.
We see how the weight of her mother’s expectations has taken their toll on her, driving her to be self-destructive, angry and desperate to escape the life she leads. Hsu, a much younger performer than Yeoh, takes on a role that is equally difficult and truly brings it to life, making Joy an absolute (no pun intended) joy to watch.
Overall, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” lives up to its exceedingly verbose title, delivering everything you could want from a great science fiction action film, including personal, heartfelt character arcs, breathtakingly choreographed action sequences and some of the most laugh-out-loud comedic beats of any film I’ve seen in a long time.
The film is a testament to the power of kindness and accepting the fleeting joys of life, and one that demands to be seen on the big screen as soon as possible.