“The moment you realize you are not present, you are present. Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it. Another factor has come in, something that is not of the mind: the witnessing presence.”
-Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
As if (Being) John Malkovich warped through The Matrix to Kill Bill, Everything Everywhere All at Once is an extraordinary punch to the gut of all the cinematic banalities of the 21st century. We’ve been looking for a groundbreaker like this since the last “parting of the sensory”* in 1999 when movies placed cerebral stimulation above surface level entertainment.
Yes, the plot may be too unconventional for some: A Chinese immigrant laundromat owner in a dysfunctional family inadvertently gets thrown into a fantastical multiverse full of second chances that result in a “butterfly effect” of a life of the upmost potential. However, for those who yawned through most of the Oscar nominees, this is a welcomed slap to the face (too soon?).
Like an RPG video game character, our heroine, Evelyn Wang (ferociously played by Michelle Yeoh), gets to look at herself in the mirror, battle her metaphorical demons, reform, and wash and repeat in hopes to not run out of lives and [Game Over]. One can’t help but think of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World or even the overlooked German hit of ’98, Run Lola Run.
At times, I wished the movie tapped its powers for more emotional catharsis and Power of Now philosophy than the redundant Tarantino-esque ultraviolence. There are loopholes and confusing inspirations behind the scheme, but at least there is a perverse sense of humor on top—the kind of effed up humor that was needed in similar time-morph films like Inception and Looper.
And, that’s just it: I can keep comparing other movies to the little miracle of Everything Everywhere All at Once, but this odd duck will continue to stand alone as a multiverse hybrid with heart. Family values are embraced, regrets are reconciled, and there is an acceptance that “all the wrong turns, stumbles and falls brought us here.”**
It’s an audacious film, not for everyone, and it’s good at that.