An Artistic Panic Attack: Everything Everywhere All At Once

This movie hit me a lot harder than I expected.

I went in expecting a fun, but strange, action movie and came out feeling like I had just experienced an anxiety attack. I was exhausted. Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s story delivers on the promise in the title. This film has everything, everywhere, all at once. It’s overwhelming, it’s mind-bending, it’s an explosion of colour and sound and all things strange. It’s a lot. But I sure did enjoy my time in the theatre.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

The part of the film that I loved the most was the part of it that overwhelmed me. Divided into three parts, Part 1: Everything is an accurate representation of what it feels like when I have an anxiety attack. The opening scene is chaotic and stressful, and it’s really no surprise when Evelyn Wang’s (Michelle Yeoh) consciousness bifurcates in the office of Deirdre Beaubeirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis). It’s no wonder Beaubeirdre keeps showing up as a villain when it is her role in this story that pushes Evelyn over the edge. This may be presented as a fun, save-the-world, action plot with a chosen one in the heart of the action, but what we’re really witnessing is a mental breakdown.

By Part 2: Everywhere, we see the consequences of having to deal with everything all at once. Generational trauma, an increasing common theme in movies nowadays, rears its ugly head, and depression sinks in. Sure, the googly eyes, hotdog fingers, and everything bagel keep us laughing because it’s so ridiculous, but it’s all so much more ominous under the surface. The simple everything bagel becomes black hole of depression and it’s hard to ignore the similarities between the notion of succumbing to the bagel’s power and thoughts of “giving up” (i.e. suicide). This is the part when we realize just how much Evelyn and her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) are hurting.

But it’s Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan) who opened the floodgates and got me all weepy. It’s his love and support that helps Evelyn throughout each chaotic stage of her journey. He’s the one who helps her to complete her transformation into the chosen one with the power to defeat the chaos, because when it comes to mental health, you cannot fight the battle alone. This sets the stage for Part 3: All at Once where we see that Evelyn and Joy have a chance to heal. Things may not be perfect, but they don’t need to be.

Despite the chaos and the stress, I knew I was going to enjoy this movie right from the start. For starters, it’s hard to say no to a cast that features Yeoh, Curis, Quan, and James Hong (as Gong Gong). In fact, it was the advanced age of the lead cast that caught my attention. Not that Yeoh isn’t extremely badass, but the main character is typically younger in a chosen one scenario. And this chosen one isn’t even that good. The other characters draw attention to the fact that Evelyn isn’t actually good at anything. But that’s what makes her the hero because she is better able to absorb the skills of her other selves since she has no skills herself. And it’s what makes her more relatable as a character. She is not special, and she could literally be anyone. Add to this fun costumes and sets, stellar camera work, and intelligent music choices, and you’ve got a winner.

So, yes, I was drained and on the verge of even more tears when I left the theatre, but I would love to watch this again. There were so many little details and recurring actors and characters scattered throughout that I need to go back and re-watch it to see what I missed. Do the details point to the existence of multiple alternate universes, or does the repetition of everything show that this is all just in Evelyn’s fractured mind? Or is it a bit of both? Is it simply everything everywhere all at once?

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