In Swiss Army Manthe debut film from Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan (collectively and fitting known as Daniels), Hank (Paul Dano) and his corpse friend Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) shoot out of a river propelled on the power of Manny’s farts. As they fly through the air, they sing a song to each other that goes: “You just have to remember that we’re all here for a purpose, and the Universe picks its time. Everything, everywhere matters to everything. ” While Swiss Army Man only lightly touched on this idea, six years later, Daniels’ second film Everything Everywhere All At Once almost makes this verse a mantra amongst a cavalcade of insane multiverses, unlimited possibilities, and endless creativity. Daniels has given audiences a wholly unique vision that literally feels like everything everywhere all at once.
Leading this trip is Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh at maybe her all-time best), who runs a struggling laundromat with her overly-optimistic husband Waymond (an equally fantastic Ke Huy Quan). When we first meet Evelyn, she’s surrounded by receipts, thanks to the laundromat getting audited, her husband is putting googly-eyes on bags of laundry, and it doesn’t take long for Evelyn to embarrass her daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu) when introducing her girlfriend to Evelyn’s father, Gong Gong (James Hong). To make matters worse, Evelyn doesn’t know Waymond has divorce papers, and IRS inspector Diedre (a hilariously wild Jamie Lee Curtis) accuses the laundromat of fraud. As someone tells Evelyn later in the film, Evelyn is living her worst you.
But that’s not to say Evelyn hasn’t tried to escape her monotonous life. We learn she’s wanted to be a singing coach and an author, amongst other interests that became hobbies instead of life-altering careers. But Evelyn’s life irrevocably changes when a version of Waymond tells Evelyn that she is just one of many Evelyns, yet she’s the only one that can defeat a powerful villain named Jobu Tupaki, who could destroy all the universes (and there are a lot of universes).
Daniels turns Everything Everywhere All At Once a frenetic and truly ridiculous barrage of probabilities and multiverse jumping. Anything you can imagine, Daniels has also thought of and thrown into this film. Everything Everywhere All At Once is a bombardment of hot dog fingers, googly-eyes, Wong Kar-Wai homages, fanny packs incredibly strong pinkie fingers, talking rocks, the Nine Days song “Absolutely (Story of a Girl),” raccoons, the guy who played Santa Claus in I Think You Should Leave, and butt plugs. And like Swiss Army Man says: everything everywhere matters to everything.
Part of the brilliance of Everything Everywhere All At Once is the remarkable amount of ideas Daniels can cram into this story without it becoming an absurd mess. However crazy you’re thinking a story can get — triple it. There are no restraints, no stops, no idea too wild that does not make it into Everything Everywhere. And while at times, the film can almost feel suffocatingly overwhelming, it’s all part of the bigger plan, an everything bagel of probabilities.
Amongst this film that flies by so fast, it should have an epilepsy warning, is an extremely touching story about the paths we take in our lives, the paths that we did not take, and how they lead us to exactly where we need to be. Again, this is coming from the two directors that made a guy’s friendship with a dead body a truly moving story. Daniels can make anything (and everything) happen.
Key to this narrative are the performances by Yeoh, Quan, and Hsu. With so many versions of these characters running around this multiverse of madness, these three are able to meet any challenge that the Daniels throw at them — whether a star-crossed lover-type story, a Pixar parody, or some of the most entertaining fight. scenes in recent memory. As the grounding force of Everything Everywhere, Yeoh is simply incredible, as no matter what incarnation of Evelyn we see her in, Yeoh always brings that original Evelyn’s aspirations, attitude, and fears with her. Also tremendous is Quan, the gigantic beating heart of the film, who gives an earnest, hilarious, and emotional performance, and Hsu, who has to be both extremely vulnerable and one of the biggest threats to the universe at the same time — not an easy task.
With Everything Everywhere All At OnceDaniels is touching on many of the same concepts they tried to tackle with Swiss Army Manjust in a more bonkers way with a larger scope. Everything Everywhere has to be as nutso as it is to prove its point: when everything is possible, what truly matters? While the third act can occasionally seem weight down by Daniels’ script attempting to hit all the grander points they’re trying to make, it all comes together in the end if you’re willing to take the ride. On the way, Daniels explores the hopelessness of depression, the little miracles that truly make life worthwhile, how acts of kindness can be an extraordinary asset, and — most fitting to this film — how it’s OK to be a mess.
If Daniels had said they had spent the six years since Swiss Army Man filming Everything Everywhere All At Once and putting together this awe-inspiring world, it would make perfect sense. It’s rare that a film crams as much into it as this one does, yet without feeling overstuffed or ridiculous for the sake of being audacious. There’s a real determination and intention to every chaotic choice, a method to this madness that ultimately makes Everything Everywhere All At Once one of the most ambitious and ballsy films in recent years — maybe even ever. Daniels try to cram everything everywhere all at once into Everything Everywhere All At Onceand I’ll be damned, they accomplished that goal with brilliance and style.