A stunning work of art
In an endless sea of superhero flicks, sequels, remakes and reboots, you can always count on A24 to deliver something fresh and original. The studio’s films don’t always work and at times they can be outright divisive. But that concept of being daring and trying new things is something the film industry has been lacking of late, especially given Disney’s monopolizing of the industry, leading to massive stagnation across the big screen.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is far from stagnant. This is a cleverly written, visually stunning, complex picture that manages to bring bags of creativity, a surprising amount of humour and a lot of mind-bending concepts that are likely to be lost on many people. In its simplest form, Everything Everywhere All At Once feels like Dark, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Inception and The Matrix all rolled into one. It’s chaotic, messy and at times nonsensically silly.
However, all of that chaos is glued together with a very deep and profound message at its core, diving into ideas of nihilism, familial values and mother/daughter relations. If you’re looking for something original and creative on the big screen, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything else quite like this one.
The story is actually quite simple, especially when you cut past some of the bells and whistles. Our protagonist is an aging Chinese immigrant called Evelyn Wang, who runs a failing launderette with her husband Waymond. Their daughter Joy is anything but, miserably tagging along and trying to find her place in the world – and try to make her mother accept her for who she really is. Oh and there’s also Gong Gong, Evelyn’s father.
Evelyn is essentially thrown into the classic “hero’s journey” story, as she’s approached by “Alpha Waymond”, who controls her husband from another universe and warns that a massive threat is coming that could disband and destroy all multiversal life. No, it’s not the Scarlett Witch from Doctor Strange, it’s actually someone far more unhinged and close to home.
The only way for Evelyn to stop this threat is to learn the ways of the multiverse, connecting with her alternate iterations and possessing their skills. Whether it be a chef, singer or kung-fu fighter, all of these skills are added to Evelyn’s repertoire across the movie. So far so good.
Around the 45 minute mark though, things take a drastic turn for the crazy, as if the initial LSD trip you were on has suddenly become a lot more intense. At times, it can be difficult to discern exactly what’s going on and I can imagine that those not entirely swept up in Evelyn’s journey will dismiss what’s happening as random BS and cleverness for the sake of it.
Those willing to look a little deeper however, will find some absolutely profound messages here. There are subtle clues around constants in each of these universes, recurring jokes that I won’t spoil here, and some utterly outrageous and bizarre ideas that somehow seem to lend themselves perfectly into creating one of the more original movies in recent time.
Interestingly, there’s a recurring motif in this movie around the shape of a circle. Whether it be the washing machines at the launderette, a special bagel or circled receipts, all of this harks back to the spiritual idea of one’s self and timelessness, specifically the timelessness of the multiverse and what traveling in it can do. It’s a great way of tying the main ideas of this movie into “Easter eggs” dotted throughout the film.
These Easter eggs feel like a kaleidoscope of self-referential gags, ideas and satirical plays on films we’ve seen before. The choice Evelyn makes at the start – whether to go left or right – feels ripped right from The Matrix; there are references to Ratatouille; a whole fight sequence feels ripped right from a Jackie Chan flick; and there’s even a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey too. These are peppered constantly throughout the 2 hour 20 minute run-time.
Yet, through all this noise and chaotic multiversal jumping, the core of the film is a very simple and emotionally charged tale about simple themes that will resonate with each and every one of us.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is a creative, chaotic trip that’s easily up there as one of the best films released this year. This beautifully written movie won’t be a masterpiece for everyone but for those who emotionally engage with this, it’s hard not to place A24’s latest on a pedestal as a stunning work of art.
Verdict - 10/10