'Everything Everywhere All at Once': an appropriately unhinged dive into chaos
'Everything Everywhere All at Once' is a thoroughly anarchic ride that grips like a pit-bull’s jaw once you get lost in its storytelling, writes Devon Thomas.
Everything Everywhere All at Once seemingly came out of nowhere for me until I first started seeing memes and discussions appear in everything, everywhere, all at once.
Much like the main character, my stubborn instance to not engage on yet another A24 offering this year had withheld me from actually watching the film.
The adventure comedy film and stars Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Jamie Lee Curtis and Ke Huy Quan. Veteran cineplex Ster-Kinekor describes the film as "Chinese immigrant Evelyn Quan Wang (Yeoh) is swept up in an insane adventure, where she alone can save the world by exploring other universes and connecting with the lives she could have led."
Released in theatres in March, I only actually watched the film about a week ago after being bullied by social media, my friends, and my boss to check it out – and, boy, was I happy I did.
I was starting to feel A24 fatigue after rewatching a slew of the production company’s films I didn’t give the required attention needed.
The company’s greatest trademark and potentially its biggest flaw is its focus on the hyper-stylisation of its movies and its tendency to favour a slow burn over a firecracker. Like, you really have to sit down if you want to revel in the mastery of some of its greatest films such as The Witch (2015), Hereditary (2018) and Moonlight (2016).
However, for every Spring Breakers (2013) lies The Bling Ring (2013) (literally released months after each other), and I just didn't know if I was down to go through that after 2022’s X left me uncertain after my first watch. Sometimes a hottie just wants a fun slasher blockbuster and not an artful meditation on sex in horror, you know?
But sometimes bullying makes some valid points because All at Once is not only my favourite release of the year, but also might be one of the best things A24’s ever done.
Oh, how I revel in being wrong because it is a rare feeling for me to experience!
All at Once succeeds on just about every level it possibly can: the cast is perfect, the characters are fully realised, the story is exceptional, the writing is some of the best I’ve seen in a while, the production is masterful, the costuming is wild, and the directing truly is something to marvel at. Anyone who doesn’t at the very least appreciate the film on a technical level is simply not as edgy and different as they think they are.
However, technical prowess aside, what is perhaps the most engaging and lasting aspects of the film are its themes, particularly its truly chaotic representation of absurdism.
As person who dwells on (and sometimes wallows in) the meaninglessness of life, I was first introduced to the concept in drama class back in 2011 through the seminal play, Waiting for Godot.
It’s safe to say that I have been going through an existential crisis ever since.
Godot centres around two characters waiting for the titular Godot who never shows up but despite its relatively simple concept, it's absolutely bizarre. Much like All at Once. To be honest, I lost count on how many times I said “wtf is going on, here?”. If any substances were involved, I would have lost whatever was left of my mind.
And, just like Godot, I loved every second of it.
Maybe it’s because I managed to enter into the film basically blind. Perhaps I need to have a chat with the creators? Either way, I deserve compensation for what that first act did to me.
There was nary a second of the first chunk of the film where I could confidently say that I knew what was happening or where the film was going and that is even rarer than me being wrong. It's not very often you come into a mainstream movie that trusts its audience enough to deliver a premise and have them figure everything else out.
Broken into three (unequal but just as strong) parts – "Everything", "Everywhere" and "All at Once" – the movie explores existentialism and absurdity in a way I haven’t really experienced since Godot messed me up.
Without spoiling much, this is very much a film about a woman’s reality unravelling and the blissfulness that can come with that.
As the film progresses, Evelyn steadily learns to let go of (her) reality and embrace meaninglessness in a way that only absurdism knows how.
All at Once could have very easily lost itself in its navigation of its themes but as things unravel, its story and message become stronger.
At its core, the film ultimately deals with motherhood and the rabid uncertainty that comes with that, especially when faced with a life that, at the end of the day, is devoid of meaning and where the only thing that makes sense is that nothing makes sense.
The film is a thoroughly chaotic ride that grips like a pit-bull’s jaw once you truly give it the A24 treatment it deserves and get lost in the storytelling, which somehow manages to be the most coherently incoherent mess I have ever had the pleasure to revel in.
M. Night Shyamalan really needs to take pointers from All at Once's directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert if he wants me to start taking him as seriously as his movies imply I need to do.
I’ll leave you with two quotes from the film that perfectly sums up its modus operandi: it’s “all just a pointless swirling bucket of bullsh*t” so “we can do whatever we want because nothing matters”.
Honestly, this is an undisputable 10/10. I refuse to argue otherwise.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is out in cinemas now.