★★★★½ - STUFF
- Probably the most fun you'll have in a cinema all year -
On the fringes of a Californian city, Evelyn and Waymond Wang are running a struggling mom-and-pop laundromat.
Business is slow – although the few regulars do seem to be almost obsessively attached to the place – and the IRS are taking an unhealthy interest in the deductions that Evelyn claimed on her last return.
Meanwhile, teenage daughter Joy is in her first relationship with another girl, but Evelyn is struggling with how to introduce Joy and Becky to her own dad, who is visiting from China. And then, into this family drama set-up, another reality comes crashing in.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is not the best film of 2022. And they will confiscate my reviewer's certificate, if I tell you that it is. But it is my favourite film of the year so far. And I will still be amazed and delighted if I see a film I enjoy more this year.
While at the IRS and being grilled by an agent of ferocious diligence, Evelyn is visited by an alternative Waymond. He explains he is from a parallel universe – one of billions – and Evelyn must learn how to “verse-jump”, to inhabit other versions of herself in other universes, if she is going to save all the possible worlds from being destroyed by the evil Jobu Tupaki – who might already be living under her very roof...
I'll always love that feeling – and it usually arrives about 10 minutes into a movie – when we realise that whoever has made this has something new and funny to say, and the skill to get it on to the screen. Those are the films that go on to become cults – and cultdom is absolutely assured for Everything Everywhere All At Once. There will be a midnight screening of this film, somewhere in the world, every Saturday night until the end of time.
Everything is going to be endlessly compared to The Matrix, but also Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Dark City and their many influences and imitators. And some viewers are going to pick up nods to The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy series as well. Which is fine – and appropriate.
But Everything Everywhere All At Once is also working at levels those fine films and books never really considered. Michelle Yeoh plays Evelyn – at first – as a woman who is mostly disappointed by her life and by her self. Her marriage is all but over, her future looks dull, and her own daughter treats her with little but impatience bordering on contempt.
And yet, the film’s elevation of Yeoh into the arse-kicking galactic warrior she must be, does not come because of a denial of her life, but because of her total embrace of it. The eventual triumph in Everything Everywhere All At Once is not to find out you are somebody else, but being who you have always been. It's a subtle shift, but it lends this film poignancy, resonance and a deeply satisfying and entertaining emotional core that I'm not sure the genre has ever delivered before.
At the centre of the film – and of everything, it turns out – Yeoh hands in a performance she has waited 59 years to deliver. Everything Everywhere All At Once has a lot of fun referencing and parodying the martial arts epics that made Yeoh an international star, but what you'll remember of Yeoh here is her ability to drag some real passion and heartbreak out of the madness unfolding around her. Evelyn's relationships – with daughter Joy especially – are the engines that give this film its life. And it is Yeoh's performance that holds everything together and somehow keeps it all comprehensible.
Around Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu are terrific as Waymond and as Joy, while Jamie Lee Curtis – in many roles, the less you know the better – appears to be having the absolute time of her life. As does everyone else involved.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is an absolute blast and an unforgettably daft, moving and deceptively insightful ride. A slightly tighter edit might have made it perfect, but this is still probably the most fun you're going to have in a cinema in 2022.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is now playing at Light House Cinema!
In English, Mandarin and Cantonese with English subtitles