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Everything Everywhere in Theatres Now


It is a difficult task to have something to say about a film that leaves you speechless. The maddeningly good multiverse action-adventure-comedy-drama Everything Everywhere All At Once was greeted warmly by critics, but set the cinemagoing world on fire by word of mouth alone. Those brave enough to take a swing on a high concept independent film in this market have propelled Everything Everywhere straight into the annals of various “Best of All Time” public rankings, but with the opening weekend gross of the latest Marvel film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, reasserting that there is a movie-going public well beyond what Everything Everywhere was able to reach, we have to ask: is it just a bit too ‘much' for the unconverted?

First, the makings of a plot: Evelyn (the immensely talented Michelle Yeoh) is being audited on the eve of her family-run laundromat's Chinese New Year party. Her husband can feel their marriage straining under the weight of it all, while her emotionally vulnerable daughter has invited her girlfriend to the party, a fact being kept from Evelyn's hard-hearted father, visiting from China, demanding and judging all the while. Moreover, Evelyn learns that she'll have to connect her consciousness to those of her parallel lives across the multiverse in order to defeat an all-powerful being set on destroying it all.

The mighty and unknown foe is daunting as it is, but Evelyn is just as distraught to discover all of the things she was capable of becoming. And so, by way of kung fu, matter-manipulation and hot-dog fingers, Everything Everywhere emerges as a beautiful take on the absurd. That is, the idea that if you look close enough, life presents itself as meaningless, especially in the case of Evelyn, who can now grasp the full breadth and sum total of all experience. When you feel everything, looking for meaning in the face of endless possibility, reason will lead you to some dark conclusions. Everything Everywhere cakes this rather bleak assumption in enough whimsy and inspired goofacity to sustain you till its kind, affirmative and sincere conclusion. For a film this heavily invested in its own silliness, as we may have expected from Dan Kwan and Daniel Schinert (the duo behind the terminally quirky Swiss Army Man), Everything Everywhere's ambitions to recognize generational trauma, validate modern disillusionment and broach life's purpose are grand, and deeply affecting.

This goes some ways to explaining the rave reception the film has had, speaking so directly to a universal personal struggle to find value in life. For many, far from being a simply entertaining, or even moving experience, audiences are leaving the theater with some catharsis and a revitalized appreciation for the world. Daniels (as they prefer to be known) sublimate what begins as an outwardly exciting action premise with a far more personal story, keeping an emotionally-draining 2 hours and 20 minutes at bay with the levity of their style, the reassurance of their theme, and a near-constant barrage of wackiness.

That same style may present a hurdle for some. Certain critics have found it to be incongruous with the heavy thematic subject of the film, others found the handling of that theme too lightweight, and most audience members who were unable to connect with the film cite either it's juvenile humour or overwhelming style. Constantly shifting tone, setting, aspect-ratio, medium, focus, etc. to communicate the various universes, emulating the crashing, collapsing and expanding of Evelyn's consciousness and realities, there is no way around it; Everything Everywhere All At Once makes good on its title by assaulting the senses. Aversion is an understandable reaction, and whether or not you'll find all this grating should probably be clear from your reaction to the film's trailer. There is a chance though, that it may be here to stay.

This same exuberant, multi-faceted creativity and hyperactivity could point to the potential of a post-internet generation of filmmakers. For all its elaborate direction, stunt work and visual effects, Everything Everywhere was made on a relatively tight budget of $25 million, with a skeleton crew of 5 main VFX artists working from home during Covid, by filmmakers who taught themselves most of what they know through ingenuity. Daniels themselves have been working with the film's concept since 2010, the very start of their professional careers, and that time pays off in the stuffed-to-the-brim nature of the beast, but a straightforward emotional through-line means that despite its indulgence, you won't need to watch Everything Everywhere more than once; the brilliantly realized, hilariously intricate imaginings of Daniels will make you want to.

There are plenty of reasons why some people haven't returned to the theatre just yet, but one movie lovers seem reluctant to consider is this: perhaps for some that one film that will get them to trek all the way to the local cinema just hasn't come along yet. If the franchise movies exhaust them, the art films don't promise a fun night out, the marketing slips through the cracks and streaming at least doesn't ask as much money or effort for its mediocrity, staying away doesn't sound too hard. Maybe you've been waiting for something that will shake you awake in your seat with a hearty “THIS IS WHAT YOU'VE BEEN MISSING OUT ON!”. If you've wondered lately where all those wildly original, charming and powerful movies have been the last few years, they've all been stowed away here.