“So, even though you have broken my heart yet again, I wanted to say, in another life, I would have really liked just doing laundry and taxes with you.”Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All At Once
Release Date: March 11th, 2022 | Directors: Daniel Kwan + Daniel Scheinert | Distribution Company: A24
The first time I heard of Everything Everywhere All At Once, I thought it was a zombie movie. I don’t have much of a basis for this line of thinking, only a brief scene of Michelle Yeoh fighting something with Ke Huy Quan by her side. In reality, this is a movie about a mother and a daughter; it’s a movie about depression; and, it’s a movie about kindness. Saying anything past this ruins the fun of the movie. I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers; however, due to the intricacy of the movie, I may not be successful. Just a fair warning.
Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu are the heart of this movie. They star as an immigrant family from China. Yeoh and Quan own a laundromat while their daughter, Hsu, has branched out of her family and has a girlfriend. Hsu is American born and the film is careful to touch on how this cultural and generational difference influences her relationship with her mother. Quan is an upbeat and lovable father who accepts everyone as they are while Yeoh’s character shows her love through the only ways she knows how: food and mildly harsh comments about Hsu’s appearance. The beautiful part of this film is how prominent the love between the three of them is. Hsu’s character struggles with depression and this clearly influences how she processes her mother’s words and actions. This story is ultimately very simple, that is, until it’s not.
This is where we introduce the supporting characters of Jamie Lee Curtis and James Hong as the IRS agent and Gong Gong (Yeoh’s father). Hong’s character comes to visit the day Yeoh, Quan and Hsu are meant to file their taxes with the IRS. Curtis’s arrival in the story is quite remarkable in terms of lending a fair amount of star power to the film and gently guiding the plot forward. The IRS building stands one of the main settings of the film as this is where Yeoh’s character is introduced to the multiverse (in hindsight, this may also be where I got the impression of the film being about zombies). In EEAAO, the multiverse is centered around a villain who plans to destroy all universes. This villain – played by Hsu – is known by Jobu Tupaki and this is where Hsu shows off her range and earns her Oscar nomination.
From there, the movie reverts back to story about a mother trying to save her daughter by trying to demonstrate her love. Yeoh works to destroy everything and everyone standing in her way in order to try and convince Hsu that life is worth living. But, at the end of the day, Yeoh’s own demons prevent her actions from being effective. This is where Quan comes in and saves his wife and therefore his daughter with his unconditional love and kindness.
Yeoh, Quan and Hsu are absolutely phenomenal in this movie and Curtis’s and Hong’s dedicated performances only serve to highlight the absolute brilliance of the story. The story itself is very strong in terms of effectively highlighting a theme using a wide variety of techniques. Each universe is distinct with the costumes and editing emphasizing the difference in lifestyles and how that influences how each variant of the character sees the world. The movie also takes care to demonstrate Jobu Tupaki’s depression in terms of how the universe (i.e the world around her) has broken her. She sees too many outcomes in too many worlds and her brain is essentially broken. It’s her mother’s kindness that brings her back before she can go too far. It’s a really beautiful commentary on how effective a parent’s love can be when they choose to understand what their children are struggling with. The cinematography is extremely colorful which provides a strong contrast with the difficult themes the story touches on and it keeps the movie itself from feeling hopeless. The bright colors surrounding Yeoh’s character highlights the hope that keeps her going through all the battles and arguments with her father and daughter. Quan’s unwavering love and support for his wife’s decisions in each universe keeps her going and at the end of the day, it’s what fuels her hope.
In terms of preferred mediums, I tend to gravitate towards TV shows because of the longform nature of them. I like when a story is so intricately thought out that something that happens in episode one has a large impact in episode ten. Movies are wonderful but unless done with extreme care, the stories tend to feel incomplete and leave me with more questions than answers. This is not the case with Everything Everywhere All At Once. The format of the movie is broken down into chapters (a word of advice: when the movie says “the end”, it’s not the end so keep watching) and conversations and small occurrences that happen in the first chapter of the movie play a large role in the conclusion. The characters are written consistently and their actions don’t leave me questioning their motives. They are all motivated by love and it’s clear through their actions. In conclusion: watch this movie. If you’re a fan of any genre, you’ll find something to love here. You won’t regret giving it a chance.
P.S. One of my favorite YouTube channels is CinemaSins and for their 1000th video, they sinned this movie. It’s a 45 minute video but it was a great watch and clearly a labor of love and I’d be remiss if I didn’t add the link at the bottom of this post. Also, just for kicks, I’m adding the CinemaWins video too.