Review: How a Movie about Too Much was Exactly What I Needed

Photo Credit: Mateo Ham

Author: Mateo Ham

I can’t say I expected a movie with googly-eyed rocks waxing philosophical about the meaning of human existence to bring me to tears. But this movie did. Several times.

I feel like explaining the plot of Everything Everywhere All At Once (EEAAO) would be missing the point, because you’re going to enjoy the movie more for its content than its outline. This is a film about the struggles of marriage, the overwhelming responsibilities of adulthood, generational divides, identity and acceptance, the meaning of strength and what it means to fight, the challenges of being an immigrant, the fear you made the wrong choices in your life, the inability to focus on anything when you’re trying to do everything, and taxes. It’s also a mind-blowingly colourful and creative action dramedy that could have starred multiverse Jackie Chan.

Yes, this movie was originally supposed to star Jackie Chan instead of Michelle Yeoh, and it shows. It is filled with that Jackie Chan style of fighting with whatever you happen to have around you, except in this movie what you have around you includes the multiverse. That being true, I’m glad they went with Michelle Yeoh. She brought a depth of character that really anchored this film, and given just how crazy it gets that is no small feat. In interviews she gets teary when she remembers seeing the script and feeling for the first time that she was going to be able to show her full range as an actor. And believe me, it’s quite the range.

Ke Huy Quan also gives an incredible performance in the role of her husband. Having first starred in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies, he took a 20 year break from acting to work behind the camera. Then he saw Crazy Rich Asians, and in seeing it felt that representation for Asian actors had come a long way in the last two decades and that it was finally time to get an agent to try working once again in front of the camera. Two weeks later he got a call for this film. But, from his incredible performance, you wouldn’t know he’d left. For all the weight of Michelle’s character Evelyn, Ke’s character Waymond offers silliness, sincerity, and kindness in return. There is a balance in how their personalities decide to face this multiverse-spanning struggle that is beautiful to watch and is perfectly complemented by a cast which includes Jamie Lee Curtis and James Hong.

EEAAO takes so many genres and gleefully throws them together; it could easily have come out a jumbled mess. And yet, the emotional heart of the movie anchors it, allowing me to take a psychedelic roller coaster ride that had me laughing one moment and crying the next. These occasionally jarring switches between the totally absurd and deeply sincere acted almost like an emotional pry bar, with each switch further loosening the door to all those emotions I kept hidden for fear they would just be too much.

EEAAO made me feel seen. I struggle with indecision and the feeling that I am living in the shadow of what could have been because I feel like I could have done so many different things but never committed to anything. The writers and directors of EEAAO, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, seem to understand that struggle and decided the best way to communicate their understanding was through the mode of this absurdist multiverse action dramedy.

Ultimately, Everything Everywhere All At Once is a movie about ‘too much’. How there is too much to pay attention to. Too much to do. Too many paths that we could take at any moment, and don’t, and too many feelings to have about it all. It is about dealing with how overwhelming it can be to have everything everywhere fighting for every last scrap of our fractured attentions. It is about all the things we want to say but struggle to. It is about the temptation to just give up when faced with the seeming meaninglessness of everything. And it is about kindness in the face of the absurdity of it all.

I want you to feel some version of what I felt when I saw this film, and I think the best way to do that is to know as little as possible going in. Avoid trailers if you can. Avoid interviews with the actors talking about the film. Avoid video essays about it. Just go in with an open mind, and more importantly, an open heart.

To watch the movie in theatres, check out this link. To watch it at home, check here.

Matteo Ham (Photo Credit: Matteo Ham)