Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Everything Everywhere All at Once. Informed only by a vague and uncertain synopsis of the trailer courtesy of my mum, wherein words like fantasy, sci-fi, and martial arts were thrown around, we made a last-minute cinema trip to what turned out to be one of the greatest films I’ve seen this year.
Another fantastic production from the studio that made Midsommar, Moonlight, and The Lighthouse, A24’s Everything Everywhere is the ultimate blend of dimension-jumping sci-fi, martial arts, and powerful familial love. It ultimately tells the story of one downtrodden woman’s attempts to repair broken relationships with her daughter and husband, while simultaneously being called upon to save the universe. On top of everything else, it’s also absurd, hilarious, and full of double-take moments of euphemistic humour. The title truly encompasses the nature of the film.
It doesn’t, however, feel overwhelming, or like it’s trying to do too much, which is largely thanks to the brilliant acting from its cast. Crazy Rich Asians’ Michelle Yeoh plays protagonist Evelyn Quan Wang, an unassuming launderette-owner who is forced to battle enemies in an attempt to save the multiverse. Due to her past achievements in films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I was doubtful that Yeoh’s acting could be topped by anyone else in the film; however, I was surprised — Stephanie Hsu, playing Yeoh’s daughter-slash-villain, did a remarkable job at matching Yeoh, in a mother-daughter dynamic which became a highlight of the film. Not only was she a compelling character, but her vast array of gorgeous outfits and snappy one-liners made her a joy to watch. Jamie Lee Curtis also brought comic relief alongside drama and tension in her fantastic portrayal of the movie’s second villain, Deirdre Beaubeirdre, an IRS tax auditor. In scenes equal parts nerve-wracking and thrilling, the three women have taken a brilliant script and transformed it into an even more brilliant film.
The strong female leads also feel like a breath of fresh air in superhero films. Superhero films are undeniably popular at the moment, with Marvel Entertainment’s output accounting for 30% of domestic box office earnings in 2021. However, even with strong female protagonists such as Wonder Woman and Black Widow taking centre stage in some of these films, it is undeniable that the majority of Marvel and DC films are centred around male characters and are produced for a male-majority audience, and many of the female characters within are frequently sexualised. In Everything Everywhere, the two female leads are empowered in their own right and, aside from discussions about Hsu’s LGBT character’s sexuality within the traditional Chinese family, their sexualities and bodies certainly aren’t wielded as defining features. This film could pass the Bechdel test tenfold, another reason that it feels so empowering and fresh.
Though it’s the film’s wild inter-dimensional dramas and fight scenes that initially take centre stage, with their stunning martial arts sequences and beautifully-shot angles, it’s impossible to overlook the film’s overarching assertion: that true power lies not in strength or skill, but in one’s family, be they by blood or chosen. I would wholeheartedly recommend this film to anyone, but make sure you’ve got lots of popcorn because it’s a long one.
Image “Michelle Yeoh Cannes 2017” by Georges Biard is licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0