Everything Everywhere All at Once is another wild ride from The Daniels, which premiered at the best possible place for it, the South by Southwest Film Festival. The energy level and anticipation were at an all-time high as SXSW looked to show its first film in person since 2019. Everything Everywhere All at Once, starring Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wong, an overworked and overtired Chinese American woman who, alongside her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) and daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), run a laundromat.
As Evelyn prepares for a party with her father (James Hong) celebrating Chinese New Year, she must also deal with a tax audit and a particularly challenging auditor named Deirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis). While at the IRS building, the unimaginable happens; her seemingly docile and calm husband changes into a Waymond from a different universe, warns her of the danger she is in as Jobu Tupaki, an alternative universe version of Joy, seeks to destroy her. Throughout the story, Evelyn must fight various minions of Jobu Tupaki to keep her version of her family safe.
With the Daniels, you can always expect an intense and insanely creative film, but also the ability to look deeper and find real meaning in the movie. They so easily touch upon issues that others struggle to grasp in a way that is both entertaining and moving. This film addresses many problems centered around generational trauma and what is inherited from one generation to the next. Evelyn never got the approval of her father for leaving to be with Waymond in America and never reaching her full potential. Joy was the direct recipient of that trauma and pressure to succeed and be better than her mother could.
Throughout the film, we can see Evelyn come to these realizations that despite her unrealized potential in many things, she is still good enough. From the beginning of the film, we can see that the relationship between mother and daughter is incredibly strained. They both hang on to this anger and these depression and mental health struggles. The film touches upon this idea of nihilism and handles it in a way that isn’t scary or defeated.
Waymond serves as a direct counterbalance to the anger and rage that both Joy and Evelyn feel. He leads the fight not with aggression but with kindness and understanding. What a beautiful message that is for this time. We can fight by leading with empathy. What Evelyn mistakes for weakness and meekness are strength and growth. Waymond’s character resonates with the audience because they know him. They’ve seen a person in their lives that is too soft-spoken, too kind, too silly, but again, is always there, standing up beside them. He brings this character to life in such a genuine way; it is incredibly touching.
The performances by this cast are top-notch. The challenges they faced with becoming different versions of their characters and reimaging things with a different perspective is an incredible achievement. Michelle Yeoh’s performance was emotionally demanding and showed her dynamic range as an actor. Stephanie Hsu shows us that she is not going anywhere anytime soon. After 20 years, Ke Huy Quan returns to a triumphant performance with the most endearing character in the film. Together, this cast was electric and gave us something that will stick with us for years to come.
The out-there antics and “what the f*ckery” that we are used to from the Daniels is definitely present. There are scenes so out there that it’s tough to understand how these creative masterminds think. The way they present things is so unique with this unabashed emotional rawness that we are fortunate as audience members to experience.