SXSW Review: The Daniels’ ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’
Where to begin with Daniel Scheinert and Dan Kwan (aka The Daniels) and their new film Everything Everywhere All At Once. Having its world premiere Friday at SXSW, it certainly lives up to its name. It’s an ADHD-fueled acid trip that takes up every bit of space during its 2-hour, 20-minute runtime. The Daniels create a vast world around the concept of love, family, tradition, and how sometimes you have to go to the ends of the universe to appreciate what you have at home.
Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) is a neurotic, high-strung laundromat owner who is getting audited by the IRS. Her marriage to Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) is loveless and stressful, and her relationship with her daughter Eleanor (Stephanie Hsu) is even more strained. Evelyn is so in her own head that she doesn’t realize how her misery, unhappiness and denial about the stagnant state of her life affects others. And her disconnection from reality causes a ripple effect in every part of the multiverse. Yes, that’s right. Thousands of versions of her exist across a vast multiverse where she lives different lives and has different skills.
She learns all of this on a day at the IRS where she meets Deirdre Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis), the agent handling her case. In a sudden turn of events, her husband’s consciousness has been switched with another version of Waymond from the Alpha Universe, the place most knowledgeable about the chaos consuming every part of the multiverse. Alpha Waymond is on a mission to find one specific Evelyn to help him stop the main villain, but the reasoning is unclear as to why. Not going to get into the technicalities of the world The Daniels have built as it would be doing the film a disservice, but know, unraveling the mystery behind it all isn’t as complicated once the viewer begins to understand what’s going on. This hard-core sci-fi family drama makes subtle nods to The Matrix, In the Mood For Love, Hong Kong action cinema and a slew of other inspirations. All of those elements together create a visual feast that never stops moving.
For a concept so wild, there is a high degree of emotional maturity in this script. At its core, it’s a family drama that uses time and space to get these characters to find value in togetherness. This is a make-or-break moment for Evelyn as she is the glue that holds this family unit together, but her repressive and unaffectionate nature causes her husband and daughter to pull further away from her in every multiverse. Each jump into another world gives her motivation to become a better person and she uses that to not only fix her life but also bring joy to the lives of everyone.
The movie contains a strong starring and stunt cast, starting with Yeoh at the helm. It shouldn’t have taken Hollywood this long for her to achieve top billing. She can act, does her own stunts, and looks glamorous while doing so—and the reason why the role of Evelyn is perfect for the actress. It’s a character sprinkled with wit and classic comedic timing that is so opposite to her usual roles. THIS IS LONG OVERDUE!
Hsu and Quan’s performances are equally strong as they round out the story’s emotional core. They are Evelyn’s yin and yang and provide balance to her insane new reality.
In Everything Everywhere All At Once, nothing you see is by accident, which aids in invoking a physical reaction by funneling the audience through a range of emotions to unsettle the viewer. Every subject addressed is essential to moving the story forward, which is a credit to The Daniels and their powerful storytelling. And when you think things have reached the height of ridiculousness, the directors swack you again by raising the stakes even more.
Its a fun ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Then again, I guess that depends on what multiverse you’re in.