Everything Everywhere All at Once is a 2022 American absurdist comedy-drama film written and directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as “Daniels”). The film has grossed over $57 million worldwide, becoming A24’s highest-grossing film domestically. The film was acclaimed by critics, who lauded its imagination, direction, the performances of the cast, and its handling of themes such as existentialism, nihilism, and Asian American identity.
S P O I L E R S
The premise of Everything Everywhere All at Once is as follows –
An aging Chinese immigrant is swept up in an insane adventure, where she alone can save the world by exploring other universes connecting with the lives she could have led. (IMDb)
While concise, this premise fails to do justice to the raw ambition, abandon and absurdity that flows right through the film. While it is difficult not to admire the artistic intent of this freewheeling work, ultimately it must be said that it falls short by being less than engaging as a story.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a pretty silly film and its admirers may defend that as a design trait but we would argue that this denies the very engagement it seeks to engender. By making all the key characters – the hero, the villain, the allies – all part of the same family unit, it possesses the high concept of a multi-levelled domestic drama played out on a cosmic scale but the execution chokes with its odd pacing and over-the-top scenarios.
Sure, the film is meant to be absurd and comic but did it have to be annoying as well? The Daniels seem to be rubbing our collective faces in their conceit – “hey look at how clever our art film is?” – to such an extent that it becomes somewhat soulless. We could not invest ourselves in something so knowingly silly and that broke the suspension of disbelief for us.
In the final analysis, Everything Everywhere All at Once is the kind of film that is hip and cool but fundamentally emotionally vacant.
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