If you wanted to, you could spend an eternity listing every single cultural influence that inspired the Daniels to create their exhilarating multiverse movie, Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Films like The Matrix and In the Mood for Love are obvious touchstones… but all you really need to know going in is that these directors love cinema and appreciate that every single film (and person) is made up of beautiful specific details that hold great meaning to each unique individual in an infinite number of ways.
In Everything Everywhere All At Once alternate universes, lives, regrets and possibilities flash into Evelyn Wang’s (Michelle Yeoh) mind at the most inconvenient time – like while she’s attempting to file her taxes for the laundry business she runs with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). Evelyn’s also arranging a Chinese New Year celebration for her community, while hosting her elderly father (James Hong) and trying to keep her adult daughter Joy’s (Stephanie Hsu) girlfriend Becky (Tallie Medel) a secret from him. Waymond has also just handed her divorce papers. In short, life is stressful for Evelyn and she is at breaking point.
Evelyn eventually snaps in the IRS building, whacking Jamie Lee Curtis’ award-winning jobsworth in the face and kicking off a chain of events that begins with a thrilling kung fu fight sequence that makes excellent use of the ever-versatile bum-bag. The entire film has an infectious gonzo energy that never lets up, with each unexpected twist and turn introducing a weird new world that could only come from the makers of Swiss Army Man (the Daniels previous film where Daniel Radcliffe played a farting, talking corpse).
With each new world comes an exciting challenge for the extremely game cast of talented actors, who get to flex every acting muscle imaginable. Yeoh skips between poised, action hero, hot mess and sexy film star to name a few and does it all in a greatly convincing and commanding manner. Hsu rocks every imaginatively designed costume change, and the way she shifts persona with a multitude of facial expressions is hugely impressive. Hsu and Yeoh’s scenes together switch effortlessly between comically violent and deeply emotional as they eventually discover connection in the strangest of places and in the most surprising forms.
For every deeply romantic or poignant moment on matters such as desire, mental health and long-term relationships, there’s a filthy, juvenile joke waiting just around the corner, and the film is suffused with such charm, wit and sincerity, that even if a particular scene doesn’t land for you, it’s not long before you’re whisked away to something deliciously silly, gasp-inducing or tear-jerking to enjoy.
This is an endlessly inventive and exquisitely crafted piece of filmmaking from a pair of audacious directors who know how to have fun while truly digging into the human condition. They’ve turned family drama, existential crisis and the mother-daughter dynamic on its head with an epic battle across universes that draws each and every one of its characters together with humour, heart and a massive dollop of empathy.
Everything Everywhere All at Once opens in cinemas on 13 May.