Updated: Mar 9
The Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) are a directing duo that have a unique vision and sense of humor, proving that with the extremely weird Swiss Army Man. Their second foray into the Multiverse. And no I do not mean Marvel’s upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but instead the beautifully surreal Everything Everywhere All at Once.
Evelyn Quan (played by Michelle Yeoh) and Waymond Quan (played by Ke Huy Quan) own a failing laundromat in the city. As they try to renew their busy license to expand to another laundromat, Waymond becomes someone else and reveals the Multiverse exists to Evelyn. With the multiversal truth bomb, comes the reveal of a mulitversal threat in the form of Jobu Tupaki (played by Stephanie Hsu), who also happens to be Joy Quan, Evelyn and Waymond’s daughter. It now is up to Evelyn to become the hero of her own story and find a way to stop Jobu Tupaki from ending the Multiverse with her “Everything Bagel”.
One thing the film gets right is an accurate and all-too-relatable representation of Asian family life in North America. The way Evelyn constantly nags Joy about being “too fat”, having tattoos, being rebellious and having a white partner is relatable for any Asian kid growing up in North America. Kids of Asian parents understand how difficult it is to live up to their parents’ very rigid standards to become rich and successful, often persuading them to pursue careers in STEM and any deviation from those standards is met with derision and disdain. This can also be seen with Evelyn, when her father Gong Gong disowns her for leaving with Waymond to America. All of Evelyn’s disappointments in Joy eventually led to her becoming depressed, hence creating the bagel. Hollywood has a long track record of Asian misrepresentation, so to see the struggles of an Asian American family being accurately portrayed on screen is so refreshing to me.
Along with the realistic and relatable Asian representation, there are some heavy themes revolving around depression, existentialism and nihilism. Just look at how the Everything Bagel is treated; it is a multiversal black hole because Joy pretty much had a psychotic break in one universe and came to believe that nothing truly matters in life. I personally saw this as an allegory for depression as everything about Joy’s personality was placed on this Bagel and could never find the good in it, eventually leading to her to enter the black hole as a way to find peace and stop agonizing over a meaningless life. It hit heartbreakingly deep and honestly felt like an honest portrayal of depression, but I am no psychologist or expert on depression so don’t look at this as an official diagnosis, just my own opinion. They also handled nihilism in an interesting sense, particularly with one scene involving two rocks and all subtitles; which also made it one of the oddly surreal yet hilarious scenes in the entire film.
Everything Everywhere All At Once also changes the storytelling game. Making a multiverse movie is no easy feat, especially since it is being done without set up from any prior films like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They juggled MANY different genres, from sci-fi, martial arts, black comedy, action and family drama without losing their tone or direction. It somehow manages to tell a realistic and relatable story about family without becoming bogged down by world building when creating its version of the multiverse. The way they explain it too feels naturally confusing as I'm sure explaining a concept like the multiverse would be. But it also led to unique editing tricks such as the case with the many versions of Evelyn being briefly or not-so-briefly edited into a frame to remind us of the fracturing of reality. Plus, the cinematography is just masterful, being both beautiful and creative. Each different reality uses a different type of camera lens and aesthetic, varying the different reality without convulsing the story or confusing the audience.
These are without a doubt some of the best performances of 2022 so far. Michelle Yeoh was extremely convincing as a woman who’s basically always in crisis mode, dealing with her family and business trying to get through an audit. But looking at the multiverse through her eyes as she “verse jumps” and sees what her life could have been. We all ask those “what if…” questions through our lives, if we made a different choice how did that turn out. Seeing how the universe plays out is very intoxicating.
But the true star of the show, in my opinion, is Ke Huy Quan, which is apparently his first movie role in almost 20 years. And I have to give this man credit, he is amazing for being his first role out of retirement. He is a simple man who is quite happy with his life and is very personable, at least the first version of Waymond we are introduced to is. Alpha-Waymond is similar to the other, just has more fighting skills and leadership qualities. But I prefer the first version of Waymond we are introduced to, choosing kindness in the face of negativity. He is just a great human being putting everyone else before himself, even petitioning for divorce because of how unhappy his wife is in their marriage. Ke Huy Quan honestly deserves an Oscar nomination for Everything Everywhere All at Once.
If this was your first introduction to the directing duo The Daniels, then this is your first exposure to their imaginative sense of humor. It is beyond weird, going with Deadpool level butt fart and poop jokes, a parody of the modern Disney classic Ratatouille, to hot dogs for fingers. There was such surreal humor that it was difficult to stop laughing in certain scenes. Luckily, the humor did not overstay its welcome, as they knew when to tackle the family drama on display, or turn to a well-choreographed action sequence. Seriously, there was a reality where humans had hot dogs FOR FINGERS!
Everything Everywhere All at Once is one of the most original films of recent memory, delving into family dynamics, mental health, existence, and presenting realistic Asian representation for mainstream audiences. This didn’t catch my attention initially, but good word of mouth and hearing Data from The Goonies was going to be in it caught my attention. An epic and very personal story with gorgeous cinematography, and inventive editing created a movie going experience I have never had before. Plus, the entire cast, especially Ke Huy Quan and Michelle Yeoh giving career defining performances as our two verse jumping leads. This is a movie that will not be forgotten by the film community for a very long time.
Co-Written by: Michael Li