Everything Everywhere All at Once and the Euphoria in Empathy

Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once | Courtesy of A24

At the core of this mind-bending multiverse film starring Michelle Yeoh lies a story about true connection and being present in a world full of distractions.  

By Noelle Webster

Early on in Everything Everywhere All at Once, the new feature film from the filmmaking duo collectively known as Daniels, a Chinese-American woman named Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) sits at a cubicle across from a stickler IRS agent named Deirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis). Deirdre tells Evelyn, who is visibly distracted, “I cannot imagine a conversation more important than this one.” The conversation in question? Evelyn is being audited for incorrectly filing her taxes. 

However, there’s a clear disconnect between the two women. Evelyn can’t fully understand all of Deirdre’s English, and Deirdre struggles to make sense of the disorganized receipts and records from the laundromat that Evelyn runs with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). But while Deirdre lectures Evelyn about the importance of the current moment, Evelyn experiences a life-altering realization—that her universe is but one in a multiverse where endless Evelyns walk endless paths with endless potential. 

What follows from there is meticulous, curated chaos from Daniels, full of stuffed animal hoodies, a fanny pack fight scene, hot dog fingers, and a suspiciously shaped award statue. Without a minute to spare, the reluctant hero Evelyn is propelled forward on a quest to unlock her verse-jumping powers, defeat an evil villain, and restore balance to the multiverse. But as the film progresses, it becomes evident that Evelyn’s problems run much deeper than misfiling her taxes or being hunted by an all-powerful being. Everything Everywhere All At Once is not a movie about how to save the world—it’s about understanding how to be a part of it. Amidst the mayhem, the film stays grounded in its core message about the importance of human connection and cultivating compassion for all beings throughout our confusing, impermanent lives. Evelyn doesn’t arrive at these truths immediately—it takes a few action-packed trips across the multiverse first—but as she learns to cherish even the most mundane moments of time with her family, so does the audience.   

Daniels’s approach to the film is pure maximalism, and one of the highlights of their everything-is-more style is the sense that this movie is a celebration of filmmaking itself. There’s a love for film laced throughout; there’s a Ratatouille (2007) joke that evolves into its own subplot about the fate of an animatronic raccoon and his chef friend.There’s also a particularly gorgeous homage to In the Mood for Love (2000), a romantic drama by Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai, that sees Evelyn in a universe where she became a famous martial arts movie star and Waymond became a successful businessman. 

However, in this life, the two never married as Evelyn chose to follow her disapproving father’s advice and leave Waymond. Despite their respective financial success, Waymond laments that in another life, he’d have liked to “do laundry and taxes” with her. Everything Everywhere All at Once is both ludicrous and moving in a way that only Daniels can accomplish, and it manages to give the audience a sense of hope by impressing the idea that it’s never too late to change. Instead of dwelling on what could have been, the film encourages audiences to cherish what they do have and work to create the life and relationships they want.

As for leading actor Yeoh, in some ways, it feels as though her iconic, impressive career has been building towards this movie. Her performance contains multitudes—she’s funny, fierce, and badass but also allows herself to be vulnerable, pathetic, and lost. Yeoh as Evelyn—and the versions of herself across the multiverse—feels so real that she grounds the movie, making even the most absurd scenes relatable for the audience. A key scene depicts Evelyn facing off against a super-strong Deirdre from another universe, and to defeat her Evelyn must do something completely unexpected. She must tell Deirdre that she loves her—and mean it. In the moment it’s played for laughs but it ultimately takes on a different meaning as the movie progresses. In one universe—a universe where humans evolved to have hot dogs for fingers—Evelyn and Deirdre struggle to fix their fractured romantic relationship. It seems hot-dog-hands Evelyn isn’t too skilled at talking things out, much like the Evelyn from the core universe where the movie begins…



F. Kaskais Web Guru

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