Everything Everywhere All at Once is an absurdist, multi-award-winning, science-fiction comedy-drama from writer/directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known collectively as The Daniels). Michelle Yeoh plays middle-aged Chinese-American immigrant Evelyn who has a busy but drab life with her slightly useless husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), running the family’s laundrette in Simi Valley, CA. Her lesbian millennial daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is around too, as is her elderly father Gong Gong, (93 year old veteran actor James Hong), who has just arrived from China for a visit.
Life is chaotic and overwhelming. Her father is demanding and she doesn’t get on well with her daughter. She tries to keep her daughter’s sexuality and girlfriend from her father’s attention, much to Joy’s annoyance. To add to the chaos, the business is in the middle of a big IRS audit which takes up a lot of time. One afternoon, during a contentious meeting with IRS agent Deirdre Beaubeirdre (a super-funny Jamie Lee Curtis), Evelyn assaults Deirdre and the cops are called. Evelyn is at her wit’s end when Waymond offers her an escape route via a parallel universe, the Alphaverse. This is where the film turns a corner and we enter worlds combining funny surreal chaos, science fiction, tons of drama, anarchy and fantasy.
The Alphaverse, via verse-jumping technology, lets people use the skills, memories and bodies of their parallel universe selves. To do this they need to perform increasingly bizarre actions. These hilariously include random events such as sitting on IRS agent Deirdre’s collection of awards fashioned from butt plugs. The multi-verse is now threatened by Jobu Tupaki, the Alphaverse version of Joy, whose mind was splintered after Alpha-Evelyn pushed her to extensively verse-jump. Jobu now experiences all universes at once and can verse-jump and manipulate matter at will; she has created a black-hole-like “everything bagel” that threatens the multiverse.
Evelyn soon realises that she has many other versions of herself in the multiverse and needs to connect with them to stop Jobu Tupaki from destroying the multiverse. Other versions of her husband, now Alpha Waymond, and her father, now Alpha Gong Gong, help her along the way. The ensuing chaos takes us into many different universes including one where all humans have hot dogs for fingers! Other universes include Kung-Fu verse, Raccacoonie verse, a hilarious reference to the Pixar-animated film Ratatouille, and a basic, completely undeveloped verse where the characters are talking rocks.
This is an amazing, quite unique film that must have been so much fun to produce. It’s a completely frenzied assault on the senses, and after 140 minutes of viewing, the maximalism is likely to leave you slightly exhausted. It could do with being slightly shorter but I understand that it must have been impossible to decide which of the amazing scenes to cut. Despite the chaos, the underlying themes of existentialism, ADHD, generational trauma and Asian-American identity are easily relatable. Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis are both excellent, as is Stephanie Hsu. Brilliantly co-produced by brothers Antony and Joe Russo whose sensory-overload work is complemented by an excellent score by Son Lux. There is so much detail in this film, you should probably watch it twice. Lots of fun.
Queerguru’s Contributing Editor Ris Fatah is a successful fashion/luxury business consultant (when he can be bothered) who divides and wastes his time between London and Ibiza. He is a lover of all things queer, feminist, and human rights in general. @ris.fatah