Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations
(SPOILERS AHEAD…if you’re looking for a yes or no as to whether the movie is good, its yes an infinite multiverse amount of times).
So…covering movies can be kind of difficult. Not for lack of interest, mind you, but mostly because talking about anime/manga by itself takes up a lot of time. However, the seasonal offerings this Winter felt pretty lack luster or generally did not seem appealing, and on top of that, it seems like a good idea to leave a bit of downtime before jumping into covering another big manga series on a regular basis. So, after watching one of the most critically acclaimed movies of the last year, let’s talk about Everything, Everywhere, All at Once.
Without giving away anything major, the film focuses on a Chinese immigrant mother named Evelyn, who feels her life slowly falling apart as her laundromat business fails and her relationships with her daughter and husband falter. However, things begin to change when she finds out about a conflict that spans the multiverse and her divergence within them.
Finding Love in All Universes
Basically everything about this movie is great but what makes it really special is the way it focuses on the relationship between Evelyn and Joy as its primary plotline. In the main universe where the movie takes place, Evelyn’s life is a total mess. Every bad choice that could have been made has led her to a life full of regret and emptiness, including trying to appease her own father by hiding the fact that Joy is gay.
What at first feels like it is going to be a minor plot point ends being indicative of the entire movie. The alphaverse version of Joy feels emotions of all her various timelines, which end up being largely negative due to the choices of Evelyn. The dynamic works really well for a number of reasons.
First, Evelyn comes to understand throughout the course of the movies that her relationship with Joy very much mirrors her relationship with her parents. The two are united not just in their eventual mutual desire to make up but also in their shared experience as women without familial support. Second, actresses Michelle Yeoh and Stephanie Hsu are immensely talented, leaning into their characters at every available opportunity. Yeoh, in particular, does a great job at expressing on her face the utter chaos of her situation, from watching her daughter beat up a cop with dildos to slamming a Pomeranian into a fridge.
Ke Huy Quan, played by Waymond Wong, adds to this dynamic by playing the part of the detached husband and also the mentor for Evelyn’s new powers, a man who no longer feels the same about her as he once did versus one who desperately needs her to save all of reality…well, her reality, anyway. Again, the two have great on screen chemistry, both in their happier celebrations as well as their downfallen resentment.
Though the movie ends on a happier note than it started, no one should go into the film thinking it will be a cut and dry, linear narrative. It warps, teleports, and often vanishes expectations in the blink of an eye. Every time it seems like the plot is clear the movie adds another layer just to mess with everyone. A big part of the reason it is able to do this, though, is
It feels weirdly derogatory to call pieces of art “conventional” for not reinventing the wheel every time they turn on a camera or open a visual effects program. Not every piece of media that involves looking at something needs to do so. That being said, there is a way to balance the two, and Everything, Everywhere, All at Once proves that in the way it does its visual storytelling.
A good example of this actual comes in the first scene of the movie, where the main family of three is reflected in a desk mirror doing karaoke, when Joy looked to be a lot younger. After about 20 seconds or so, the film then cuts to the same scene only now with a dustier atmosphere and noticeably darker room. Now, mirrors are not at all revolutionary when it comes to literary or cinemographic history.
The same shot concept could have been done by just pointing to the actors doing karaoke in a room. However, by focusing the actors in a mirror, the rest of the camera space can be used to do visual storytelling with objects on and surrounding the desk. The filmmakers did not do any crazy experimental stuff, but rather just more efficiently used the time and space they were given.
That being said, there definitely are some more out there parts of the film. One of the biggest draws of the film is the idea that Evelyn and Joy’s lives are playing out over an almost infinitesimally large number of realities where lots of things can change. In one universe they are both martial arts masters, sure, but in another they are drawings on a page or even rocks on a planet earth where no life ever formed, talking only through subtitles. It manages to create the perfect blend of conventional movie elements and more experimental visual effects.
A Soundtrack Which Fits Every Timeline
Music is very much outside my wheelhouse when it comes to having an informed critical opinion, and as such, I try not to comment on it too strongly or with any degree of authority. However, it would be a mistake not to at least briefly mention the amazing work done by Son Lux and the various other artists who contributed for their work on this soundtrack.
What is there to say about such an incredible collection of music, other than reinforcing the idea that it is incredible? Not only are many of the songs enjoyable to listen to in their own right, they also elevate and enhance the emotions of the film in a way that not many other soundtracks manage to achieve. From the largeness of feeling millions of other versions of you at the same time to the smallness of being trapped in an apartment, only do walk down the stairs into a sterile, failing laundromat.
It is beautiful in just about every damn way possible.
If someone was going to be picky, not me of course, but someone, they might say that James Hong Harry Shum Jr’s characters feel a bit underutilized, or that the powers feel a bit underexplained, but really that is just missing the point. Everything, Everywhere, All at Once is powerful precisely because it does not feel the need to explain itself. It lays the emotional spectrum bare and asks “all or nothing?” while simultaneously giving you some of the most hilarious and out of pocket fight choreography of just about any movie ever. I did not see most movies in 2022, but it does not take a half-assed film critic like myself to see why this topped everyone’s lists.
How did you all feel about Everything, Everywhere, All at Once? Let me know down the the comments.
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