The multiverse is a complicated storytelling device, but it can be fascinating if done right. Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (or the Daniels), is a sci-fi action adventure that does an excellent job of using the multiverse as a vehicle to communicate the film’s message. Here’s my take on it. Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen it.
The film follows Evelyn, a Chinese-American woman who owns a struggling laundromat. Evelyn has an overwhelming amount of problems in her life, from her laundromat being audited to her strained relationship with her adult daughter, Joy. But this mundane life takes an interesting turn when her husband’s, Waymond’s, body gets taken over by a parallel universe version of himself called Alpha Waymond. Alpha Waymond warns Evelyn that there is an evil force, Jobu Tupaki, who’s threatening the multiverse and that she’s the only one who can stop her. As the film progresses, we learn that Jobu Tupaki is Joy, and it becomes Evelyn’s mission to save her daughter while trying to keep the multiverse from breaking.
Like a lot of A24 films, Everything, Everywhere, All at Once was interesting, to say the least. I knew very little going into this movie. All I knew was that its genre was sci-fi, so naturally, I thought this would be a more serious movie or something more Marvel-esque, especially with the multiverse element thrown in, so I was surprised to see how whacky it was. Like Evelyn, we’re thrown into the multiverse with no robust explanation of its mechanics or of the Alphaverse that invented “verse-jumping,” the ability to access the skills, memories and body of a parallel universe version of yourself by doing something strange or unlikely, like shoving a trophy up your butt. There’s a universe where humans have sausages for fingers and a universe where everyone is a rock. The chaotic force that Jobu Tupaki creates is essentially an everything bagel black hole. It all seems so random, and it’s easy to get lost in the chaos, but I didn’t think this was a bad thing.
The absurdity of this film and its use of the multiverse was something I found entertaining. I didn’t need a thorough explanation of the multiverse or its mechanics. The simple explanation of “verse-jumping,” and the information we got about the Alphaverse were all the world-building the film needed. These things, while grand and complex, were just vehicles to communicate the major themes of the film. When you strip away these crazy elements, we get a heartwarming story about strained relationships being fixed. The bagel, as ridiculous as it is, is essentially an exploration of nihilism, and the film reminds us our one hope against this hopelessness is to love the people in our lives and embrace the beauty surrounding us.
There were times when such themes became cheesy because they were thrown in your face. Waymond’s distressed monologue begging everyone to stop fighting and just be kind was cheesy, and Alpha Waymond’s ramble about the fate of the multiverse being in danger felt like a corny line from any old sci-fi, but this didn’t detract too much from my enjoyment of the film.
I would highly suggest people check this film out. It’s got a lot going for it: a heartwarming story, an amazing cast, comedic moments and a ton of absurdity. You’re bound to find something you’ll like.