The production of this film was shrouded in mystery. So much so that ahead of its release, the IMDb synopsis simply read “a woman tries to do her taxes”. And that description was not too far off, because at the core of this absolutely mad adventure is a human story about the life of Chinese immigrants in America, and the trials and tribulations of filing your taxes.
Everything Everywhere All At Once stars Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan as an immigrant couple making ends meet with their run-down laundromat business. Their daughter, played by Stephanie Hsu, lives a silent rebellion whilst struggling to reconcile her two national identities. Their home life is depicted with honesty and excellent camera work, as the audience is taken along from the small cluttered kitchen where a rice cooker is steaming away, down to the busy laundromat with its resident oddballs. The dialogue swiftly moves between English, Cantonese and Mandarin, creating a sense of mental confusion that is only the tip of the iceberg.
The story quickly shifts from a family portrait to a (pardon my French) batshit crazy, Scott Pilgrim-esque adventure. The audience, much like Yeoh’s Evelyn, is expected to play by the rules of the film without any warning or instruction. Multiversal travel and mind-bending action sequences ensue, in a story where seemingly everything is possible: that includes a butt-plug-shaped award as a key plot point, hot dogs for fingers, and very many googly eyes.
I won’t reveal what happens next: partly so you can enjoy the surprise, partly because there are no words to describe it. Simply put, “everything” happens “everywhere”, “all at once”. The sheer insanity of the film see-saws between charming and exhausting. It is a fun and wild ride, but it ultimately touches on questions of life philosophy, kindness and cynicism. In the face of adversity, disappointment and defeat, is ignorance truly bliss, or is it worth it to keep fighting?
From a technical standpoint, the VFX, cinematography and sound are all stellar. Every shot is carefully constructed, making the film an absolutely stunning piece of art. I wouldn’t be surprised if Everything Everywhere sweeps the technical categories in the next award season. Viewer discretion is advised, however: flashing images abound.
If Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness left you wanting more, I highly recommend seeing Everything Everywhere All At Once in cinema – IMAX, preferably. It has a lot more multiverse, and a whooole lot more madness.