Let’s talk about Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Ok so this is a little bit mad. Last week, we had the release of Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. It was Marvel diving head first into the multiverse concept they have been exploring for a couple of years and it has had a largely positive reception. But across the world over the last few weeks, we have seen the slow release of Everything Everywhere All At Once, another movie centred around the idea of the multiverse. The big difference being that this is being released by A24, the production company behind all the films your pretentious beardy friend tries to get you to watch. And like all A24 films, critics are falling over themselves to praise this movie and it has become an unlikely hit at the box office too. But are they right?
Evelyn Wang runs a laundromat with her husband and daughter. Everything is going wrong as she is being audited by the IRS and it gets even worse when she discovers she is part of the multiverse and must work with an alternate universe version of her husband to save reality itself.
It’s interesting how this movie turns very quickly because it doesn’t really hint at the madness that’s to come. It starts off as a proper stressball of a movie, with Evelyn trying to organise her tax receipts, cook breakfast for her father and also argue with her daughter about her bringing her girlfriend to Chinese New Year’s party that night, effectively coming out to said father who may not have the best opinion of it. This start is absolutely frantic and makes you wonder if we’re actually going to get a very different type of movie to what you’ve read about the film going in. But that’s all very important build up and it pays off later. It’s laying out the personal relationships which will be key to everything else that happens in this movie and what will keep this film from going off the rails into the multiverse of madness. Wait crap, wrong film.
But this film truly does go mad. I know it’s unfair to refer back to Multiverse of Madness because in the end, both films are trying to do very different things even if they are using the same concept to do it. But for those who were disappointed that the Doctor Strange film didn’t actually use many universes other than a brief trip through a few, you will be able to find solace in this movie because they make the most of the concept. It does take a little while to get your head around the rules they have for their version of the multiverse where you can borrow the abilities of the other selves in the universe you’re in but also you can swap into their universe at times. But the film seems to be smart enough to know it might take a while so it goes slow for a bit before really diving into the concept and just going full on insane.
And when I say full on insane, I am not exaggerating. Every few minutes, this film does something that no one in their right mind would expect to happen. But then you realise that the script actually set it up and this madness is actually being planned somewhat. But this is a trip of a movie. I feel like if the people behind this movie got caught with illegal hallucinogens, this film would be used as the evidence that would make sure of a conviction. Some of the alternate universes are as expected and stay as you’d expect. Some start off fairly standard then reveal themselves to be something out of a cartoon. Then there are the ones that start out like a fever dream then some how end up being even madder by the end of it. It’s a joy to experience everything this film has to offer and I imagine writing it all was great fun because they could do literally anything.
What keeps the film on the straight and narrow is that the emotional core is there and the movie doesn’t forget it. With the limitless possibilities they could explore in this movie, it would have been easy to forget there are actual characters here that need their personal arcs completing. But the film never forgets that and all the madness is there to serve the personal story which ends up being about family and making the most out of your lot in life. There’s also a message of it’s not always greener on the other side which is always standard with a lot of these multiverse films. It’s this emotional core which is where the film draws its real strength and why it’s more than just insanity on screen.
The film doesn’t have that many flaws either. My only issue is that I do think it was a bit too long. This film clocks in at two hours and twenty minutes and it circles around the conclusion for a while, so I did start to get impatient waiting for the end. But then again, I’m not sure how I’d cut the film to get it into a shorter run time and keep the same impact so I understand why it is this long. And this feels like a very weird sentence to say but it’ll make sense if you watch it but the sound of sausage fingers hitting each other is disgusting and also not something I wanted to find out was disgusting.
It’s easy to see why Everything Everywhere All At Once has become a hit. It’s very funny, very weird and will hit home emotionally for a lot of people. And what is best about the madness is that it isn’t weird for the sake of being weird. All of it serves the narrative and helps to make the point the film wants to make. To compare it to Doctor Strange’s recent foray into the multiverse is wrong for both films because while they are using a lot of similar techniques, they are both telling very different stories and want to do very different things. One is a big franchise tentpole effort, the other an independent film. It’s the literal definition of apples and oranges. Both are great films which explore the multiverse and if you are in the hankering for more alternate worlds after Doctor Strange, you need to come watch this.