The latest A24 film is a guaranteed tear-jerker that asks the age-old question: “What if?”
By: Yasmine Abdeldayem
Forget everything Marvel has taught you about multiverse theory; “Everything Everywhere All at Once” redefines the concept in a fashion that will bring viewers to tears (and bewildered laughter).
A24’s latest film began its limited theatrical run on March 25 in the United States, then initiated its nationwide release on April 8. As of May 4, it has grossed a worldwide total of $40.5 million—a feat for indie film lovers who have anxiously observed the changes in post-pandemic box office sales.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is a science-fiction action-packed delight that navigates the collective experience of a Chinese American family and multiverse chaos with contagious, albeit utterly bizarre, comedy.
Actress Michelle Yeoh starred as Evelyn Wang, a laundromat owner and mother struggling to make ends meet. Stephanie Hsu, known for her recurring role in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”, plays Evelyn’s daughter, Joy—and another looming force that is revealed near the end of part one.
The film is carefully divided into three parts and like many grand stories, it finds its roots in the mundane reality that viewers will begrudgingly recognize from miles away.
Part 1, titled “Everything”, saddles our protagonist with an IRS audit, planning a birthday party to impress her disgruntled father, and the news of an impending divorce from her spouse, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan).
A stressful showdown with IRS inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis) serves as the staging ground for Evelyn’s first of many encounters with the multiverse.
At the IRS building, Waymond’s body is temporarily taken over by Alpha Waymond, a version of Waymond from an alternate universe.
He explains to a startled Evelyn that the multiverse exists on behalf of the various contradictory paths that our everyday choices form. The ceaseless “what-ifs” that plague people daily are no longer hypotheticals; the roads left untraveled in one world are laden with footprints in another.
By mastering the art of verse-jumping, Evelyn becomes the only one who can save the multiverse from a harrowing fate. Verse-jumping allows her to tap into the skills developed by her alternate selves, from the kung fu techniques honed by an actress counterpart to a chef’s mastery of utensils.
Verse-jumping is only possible when a person engages in a statistically improbable action in order to slingshot their consciousness across the multiverse. Naturally, the characters frequently find themselves in ridiculous positions, like randomly proclaiming love for an enemy or shoving an uncapped tube of chapstick into their mouth.
Evelyn becomes privy to what unfolds in the wake of choices she hadn’t made and circumstances that had been altered. In one universe, she never left China with Waymond and instead became a widely adored movie star.
In another, she has hot dogs for fingers (and a touching love story with the IRS inspector).
Jobu Tupaki, a thrilling antagonist with no shortage of vibrant outfits, is the epitome of what happens when one becomes too engrossed in everything—and consequently becomes nothing.
She overextended her ability to verse-jump until she could experience and manipulate the contents of the multiverse all at once.
And perhaps her most heinous act? Staining the reputation of a beloved breakfast food by creating a destructive black hole in the image of an everything bagel.
During Part 2, titled “Everywhere”, Evelyn succumbs to Jobu Tupaki’s belief that nothing really matters in a world woven together by every chaotic possibility in the book. And the antagonist becomes nothing more than a lonely individual desperate for someone to understand her worldview.
But ultimately, this is a story that goes up to bat against the nihilism that many people, particularly younger generations, grapple with.
It forces us to consider the possibility that maybe, an overwhelming vast reality doesn’t equate to less reasons to care about the path that lays ahead of us; rather, it’s an opportunity to embrace as much as we can.
Evelyn becomes disinterested with fighting fire with indifference and leads us into Part 3, “All at Once”, through the unadulterated power of love.
After bearing witness to a portion of the infinite number of paths that could’ve been hers, she still manages to regain clarity on what makes her universe special: her family.
The emotional reconnection between mother and daughter is a moment you might feel entirely unequipped for (copious tissue boxes may help), but it grounds this story of everything and everywhere in the things that matter and the meanings we have the power to carve.