movie review: Everything, everywhere, all at once

Luke Rapallo '24

Everything, Everywhere, All At Once is easily the most fantastical movie I’ve ever seen in my life. I can’t even begin to describe the different layers this movie travels throughout its 2-hour 20-minute run time. For some people, this will result in an amazing viewing experience, whereas for others it will be a sluggish, convoluted nightmare. While the movie is certainly not for everyone, I definitely recommend you give it a chance. Everything, Everywhere, All At Once is best experienced with as little information as possible, so I encourage you to see it as soon as possible. If you still need some convincing, however, I will have a spoiler section later in the review.

 

This script is an absolute marvel. It is seriously incredible that this movie could possibly be transcribed onto paper, as it is constantly shifting from one reality to another, sometimes only for seconds.The script also fixes an issue many films about the multiverse have. Oftentimes, movies talking about such high concepts as the multiverse lack the character development that more grounded movies might have. This is something that Everything, Everywhere, All At Once subverts beautifully. The story is more about the relationship between a woman and her daughter than the specific inner workings of the multiverse. This is not to say that it doesn’t discuss the multiverse, as it certainly does, it just only focuses on how the multiverse affects the dynamic of this family. My one main gripe with the script is that it ends up running a little long. The runtime stands at 2 hours and 20 minutes, which is a fairly normal length for a movie, however, you have to be pretty focused on what is happening so you don’t get left behind by the movie. This is definitely not a movie you can be relaxed while watching; you have to focus on what is happening. Some of the attempts at humor also don’t land quite as well as I’d like them to, with jokes sometimes happening during inappropriate moments. Overall, this script makes for a great movie, even though it does have a couple of flaws. 

 

In order for this movie to tell its story successfully, it needed top-of-the-line digital effects, as the core of the plot is not rooted in reality. Luckily, Everything, Everywhere, All at Once goes above and beyond with the visual effects. At no point throughout the movie did the effects look even a little questionable, which says a lot, because the movie gets into some pretty abstract visuals. It also does this while managing to still use practical effects a lot of the time; as many of the set pieces are just set in relatively mundane environments, like a laundromat, or an office building. If I had to describe the look of the movie, I would say it sort of resembles an absurdist painting transported into live-action. This was super refreshing, as I had never seen a movie with this exact aesthetic before. The visual effects definitely enhance the quality of the experience, which is crucial because I’m not sure the movie could survive if it had subpar effects. 

 

Across the board, the performances in this movie are phenomenal; however, the clear standout is Ke Huy Quan as Waymond Wang. He essentially has to play two characters at once, rapidly switching between the two. It was very impressive that he was able to create such a contrast between the two characters sharing a body from moment to moment. Quan’s performance is the catalyst for the more action-packed element of the movie. The other two top-notch performances were Michelle Yeoh and Stephanie Hsu. Both represented the emotional core of the movie brilliantly, bringing a more distinctly human element to the absurdity that is the plot of Everything, Everywhere, All At Once. A side character that shined in her role was Jamie Lee Curtis. She made for a surprisingly terrifying IRS agent, which morphs into more of a cosmic horror role over the course of the story. She brought a frightening element to the role, which added to the suspense of the movie. There was not a single role that was a glaring flaw, with extremely consistent acting throughout. These performances help sell the absurdism of the film, as well as the more down-to-earth moments.   

 

SPOILER WARNING: From here on I will be discussing specific plot points. 

 

Everything, Everywhere, All At Once follows Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) as she navigates her laundromat being audited by the IRS, while tensions between her daughter (Stephanie Hsu) and her husband (Ke Huy Quan) are growing. One day she goes to the IRS office to have a meeting with the IRS agent (Jamie Lee Curtis) and on the elevator up, the movie’s tone shifts completely. Her husband’s personality shifts entirely, as he hands her an earpiece and a list of seemingly nonsensical instructions. During the conversation with the IRS auditor, Evelyn completes the instructions and the scene is fractured in two. She is maintaining both the conversation in the IRS office and a new more frantic conversation with an alternate version of her husband, who is warning her of a “Great Evil.” These two conversations are essentially being played to the audience at the same time. It is discovered that Evelyn has switched her consciousness to an alternate reality version of herself and that with the help of this new device, she is able to do this on command. She was chosen to do this in order to fight this “Great Evil.” This conversation is happening while she is switching back and forth between talking to the IRS representative, which creates a very stressful environment as both people are saying “What conversation could possibly be more important right now?” Eventually, Evelyn decides to try to stop this great evil, which serves as the inciting incident for the story.    

 

Overall, Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, is certainly not your average movie viewing experience. It is a breath of fresh air to the film industry, and it is definitely something that I would recommend at least giving a try. If you like it, you are going to love it, and if you don’t, you’ll probably have a rough couple of hours. It is definitely not for everyone, but on the chance you do, I recommend that you watch Everything, Everywhere, All at Once.