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everything everywhere all at once review
A beleaguered launderette owner discovers she is at the centre of a multiverse.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert

Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis

everything everywhere all at once poster

Upon the release of Swiss Army Man in 2017, I felt very alone in my dislike for that intolerable one-joke movie, as everyone else seemed to be raving about the film. With their follow-up, Everything Everywhere All at Once, directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known collectively as "The Daniels") have once again left me scratching my head.

As someone who can't tolerate quirkiness and toilet humour, Swiss Army Man was a tough watch, as it's essentially one big quirky fart joke. The Daniels' sophomore effort thankfully isn't quite as sophomoric as their debut, but it's still let down by a juvenile sense of humour that jibes with the adult themes it sets out to explore.

everything everywhere all at once review

Mothers want their kids to be safe and kids want their mothers to be happy. What's most affecting about EEAAO is how it feels like filmmakers sending their mother on a metaphorical holiday through their work, while also showing an appreciation for mothers, warts and all.

Played by Malaysian screen legend Michelle Yeoh, Evelyn Wang is a mother with a lot of metaphorical warts. She's cold to her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan, best known for his roles in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies), who is set to ask for divorce; she disapproves of her daughter Joy's (Stephanie Hsu) homosexuality; and she greets the sight of a Jewish woman (Jenny Slate) by commenting on the size of her nose.

everything everywhere all at once review

We find Evelyn in a state of frustration brought on by a tax audit for her launderette business and the arrival of her elderly father (the immortal James Hong) from China. Evelyn struggles with her father because she knows he finds her a disappointment, but she can't see the irony of her own attitude towards Joy. Two plus hours and several multiverses later, Evelyn will have learned a lesson or two about life and happiness.

The multiverse is introduced at the tax office, when an alternate version of Waymond appears and delivers the first of many expository speeches about how the plot functions. Much like the recent Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it all feels like it's being made up on the fly, and it's odd how much both movies feel inspired by the largely forgotten '80s sequel House 2, with its constant jumping back and forth between dimensions.

everything everywhere all at once review

The Daniels display a love for East Asian cinema with fight scenes inspired by classic era Jackie Chan and one particular universe where Evelyn and Waymond are the dashing but doomed lovers of a Wong Kar-wai romance. Other universes betray their reliance on lowest common denominator humour, with tired gags about dildos, anal penetration and S&M that feel incredibly conservative and outdated. If you're like me and can't get onboard with this sort of thing, it feels like the movie is poking you in the ribs and asking "Isn't this just mad? Aren't you having fun?"

It's testament to Yeoh's talent that despite her glamorous reputation, she becomes a relatable avatar for everyone's mum. Every now and then the Daniels will pause the onslaught of quirkiness to put Yeoh centre stage, and she delivers a remarkably moving performance that will have everyone in the audience wondering if their own mother is living the life she really wants.

Everything Everywhere All at Once
 is on Prime Video UK now.

2022 movie reviews