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Everything Everywhere All At Once Has Ruined All Other Multiverse Stories For Me

Everything Everywhere All at Once is a masterpiece. It’s a blistering assault on the senses that is equal parts heartfelt, funny, action-packed, intelligent, nuanced, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. After this, multiverse fiction will never be the same again.

Directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert have taken the concept of multiple neighbouring universes and expanded upon them with untold levels of imagination. No longer are these realms simply a place for brief visual gags and alternate versions of characters – looking at you, Doctor Strange – but a place where entire aspects of reality are given their own sense of agency with meaningful thematic depth and a place to exist alongside the overarching narrative. It’s a triumph, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

The film follows Evelyn Wang, a dissatisfied laundromat owner played immaculately by genre legend Michelle Yeoh. She’s a woman who could have ruled the world, but instead ran away from home with her childhood sweetheart before investing in a failed business and starting a family that doesn’t seem to care about her at all. She’s anxious, depressed, unfulfilled, and trying to piece together a future that right now just doesn’t seem worth it.

Evelyn is going through the motions, content to get a divorce and continually isolating herself from others as her own insecurities become too much to bear. Until one fateful day in the tax office when her husband is suddenly possessed by an alternate version of himself from a parallel universe who tells his sceptical wife that she’s in danger and needs to follow his every word. She can turn left to her depressing audit appointment and continue on with her miserable life, or turn right and change her destiny forever. So of course she goes left.

Things escalate from here, with Evelyn escaping her placid existence by following a set of introductions provided by her ethereal husband that see her transported into another version of this universe. She isn’t herself anymore, except she is, but a version of herself destined for death like millions of other unfortunate permutations. Having to comprehend several instances of yourself at any given time is a difficult thing to convey in any medium, but the film does so through the imagery of shattered glass and clever movements of the camera that see each world influenced by actions in the next, seeing Evelyn moving, speaking, and making a fool of herself in ways that she could never be aware of. It’s wonderful viewing, and Everything Everything All at Once explains its initially puzzling concepts with so much skill that it’s hard not to be wrapped up in it all.

I should probably mention that this isn’t just a drama, it’s also a slapstick comedy and an old-fashioned martial arts epic, all brought together into a single cohesive package from the duo who brought us Swiss Army

Man. It’s weird, but knowingly so in the best way possible. We come across universes where everyone has hot dogs for fingers or where people are pinatas and childlike drawings instead of human beings. Evelyn sees herself as a movie star, an opera singer, a martial artist, and other such unfulfilled dreams. Each life is representative of a small decision she never took, and can reclaim by performing actions that transplant her directly into that universe for a brief moment. One line from her husband stands out – 'Every rejection, every disappointment has led you here, to this moment. Don't let anything distract you from it.'

This basically translates to superpowers that propel the many action scenes. Evelyn becomes a martial arts expert by professing her love to Jamie Lee Curtis moments before she knees her in the face, while she adopts the skills of an expert cook after uncovering a multiverse where her colleague is possessed by a Ratatouille-esque raccoon. It’s hard to describe, but trust me when I say it’s incredibly bizarre and unexpectedly emotional in how these silly situations act as springboards for wondrous character moments and a narrative that deals in the themes of self-worth, regret, and the existential nature of our own lives. As human beings we often live in perpetual regret, wondering what could have been if we made different decisions or were brave enough to take risks presented to us.

But behind all of this metaversal nonsense sits a story of family. A faltering connection between mother and daughter that has become so entrenched in trauma and rejection that an alternate version of Evelyn’s daughter Joy – otherwise known as Jobu Tupaki – threatens every multiverse in existence and can only be stopped by a seemingly perfect version of our protagonist. I won’t spoil where the story goes because you need to see it for yourself, but it’s such a touching examination of familial drama and how hard it can be to accept a daughter who goes against everything you expected of them. Joy is a mess – she turned down college, is a proud lesbian, and doesn’t really know what to do with her life.

Evelyn wants her to be something more, but she also wants her to avoid making all the mistakes she did that landed her in such a sorry state of affairs. Both are directionless, and this apathy has evolved into passive hostility amidst a family that approaches breaking point. It takes tearing this entire multiverse apart and piecing back together again in order to see where they went wrong, and what steps must be taken in order to heal and find love again.

Everything Everything All At Once is one of the wildest films I’ve ever seen, but it’s also one of the most intimate and heartfelt. I went from crying my eyes out in one scene only for a surprise development to send me spinning into laughter. It’s a beautiful example of what multiverses are capable of in the right hands, and how the concept can be taken to mould stories that go far beyond fleeting visuals and cool character ideas. What we have here is more than that, and one of the best films I’ve seen in years.

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