DirectorDaniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Release Date(s)2022 (July 5, 2022)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B+
Everything Everywhere All at Once was the Little Engine That Could in 2022: a relatively low-budget genre effort from a pair of filmmakers best known for the absurdist comedy Swiss Army Man, that became not just a major box office success, but a significant cultural touchstone as well. It’s a mind-bending trip through the multiverse that mixes comedy, science fiction, fantasy, martial arts, and family drama into a chaotic but still internally consistent whole. It was the brainchild of writer/directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known collectively as The Daniels), and the project took years for them to develop. The whole thing started after Kwan watched a double feature of Fight Club and The Matrix, which got him thinking about the concept of the multiverse, but the project didn’t pick up momentum until they had the idea to use that as the backdrop for a family drama. During the lengthy development process, Sony and Marvel studios ended up beating them to the punch with films like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Phase Four in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but in a way, that just laid the groundwork that made the madness of Everything Everywhere All at Once easier for audiences to understand and accept. For once, being beaten to the punch was arguably a net positive.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is about many different things, but it’s core, it’s really the simple story of the Wang family. Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) runs a laundromat with the help of her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), but the two have been quietly pulling away from each other, with Waymond thinking that it may take threats of divorce in order to get them to confront their issues. Their daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is struggling to find her own way in the world, and her relationship with her girlfriend is something that the rest of the family struggles to accept. Evelyn is particularly worried about how her father (James Hong) will react, and isn’t willing to be honest with him about it. Making life even more challenging is the fact that they’re under audit by the IRS, and while meeting with the cantankerous auditor (Jamie Lee Curtis), Evelyn’s world will end up being unexpectedly fractured when she’s violently drawn into the multiverse around her. Yet the larger battles that she faces across different worlds and universes still end up being motivated by her conflict with her own family, especially the divide that she faces with her daughter Joy.
Impressively, Everything Everywhere All at Once wasn’t just the Little Engine That Could, it also became the Little Engine That Did. The film garnered eleven Academy Award nominations in 2023, and brought home seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, Editing, and Original Screenplay. Remarkably enough for a genre film, it also won three of the four acting categories: Best Actress for Michelle Yeoh, Best Supporting Actress for Jamie Lee Curtis, and Best Supporting Actor for Ke Huy Quan. (Stephanie Hsu was also nominated for Supporting Actress, losing to another actress from her own film.) When The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King broke genre barriers by winning a record-tying eleven Oscars at the 2004 Academy Awards, none of them were in the acting categories, and none of the cast members were even nominated in the first place. The Academy may have been willing to finally grant a bit of respectability to genre efforts, but the voting members still weren’t willing to consider them to be “actor’s films.” Everything Everywhere All at Once didn’t just break that final barrier; it shattered it by also featuring the first Asian woman to win Best Actress. In her emotional acceptance speech, Yeoh called it a beacon of hope for all the little boys and girls watching who looked like her. (She also reminded the ladies in the audience not to let anyone ever tell them that they’re past their primes!)
It would be far too simplistic to think that all of the award attention given to Everything Everywhere All at Once is due to how much heart that the film demonstrates, because as anyone who actually watches genre efforts with an open mind can attest, that’s hardly a unique quality. No, it’s due to the fact that the film deftly taps into the common human experience regardless of any specific genre elements or cultural details that it contains. The struggles that Evelyn faces are genuinely universal: everyone, everywhere, has struggled with the similar feelings of inadequacy and a lack of acceptance—maybe not all at once, but definitely at times. Evelyn’s world was fractured long before she entered the multiverse: East vs. West; small business vs. big government; the older generation vs. the younger generation; traditionalism vs. progressivism; and even Mandarin vs. Cantonese vs. English. (The multilingual nature of the film is one of the key ways in which it demonstrates the arbitrary but very real lines that are drawn between us, and the challenges of navigating through those lines to bring people together.) Ultimately, Everything Everywhere All at Once is about the difficulty in holding onto the family unit despite the disjointed nature of modern life, and that’s something to which everyone can relate. It’s a profoundly silly film that still manages to achieve its own kind of universal profundity, and that’s noteworthy regardless of the cultural context.
Yet it would still be a mistake to dismiss the significance of the levels of cultural representation in Everything Everywhere All at Once. Genre fans in particular have sometimes struggled with multiracial (or multigender) casting, criticizing films that make even baby steps toward greater diversity. The argument is that the ethnicity, gender, or sexuality of the characters shouldn’t matter, and inserting diverse cast members into genre films is just being “politically correct.” The irony is that this small subset of fans is essentially demanding that diverse audiences identify with straight white male characters, while inadvertently admitting that they themselves struggle to identify with characters that don’t look or feel like them. In other words, they’re accidentally proving that representation really does matter. Everything Everywhere All at Once provides that kind of representation for Asian audiences (and for Asian actors as well), but the remarkable thing is that it does so while also proving that diverse audiences can indeed identify with any character regardless of ethnicity, gender, or sexuality. Representation matters, but so does our own ability to identify with anyone regardless of any superficial differences. In that respect, Everything Everywhere All at Once is indeed everything and everywhere, but it’s also for anybody—and all at once, to boot.
Cinematographer Larkin Seiple captured Everything Everywhere All at Once digitally in ARRIRAW format at 2.8K and 3.4K resolutions using ARRI ALEX mini cameras. Seiple used a cornucopia of LUTs (Lookup Tables) and different lenses to create the distinctive look and feel of each of the multiverses, freely mixing spherical and anamorphic as needed: Atlas Orion, Hawk V-Lite, Scorpiolens, Canon K-35, Zeiss Super Speed, Zeiss Master Prime, and even a vintage Todd-AO lens. Post-production work was completed as a 4K Digital Intermediate, with the aspect ratio varying between 1.33:1, 1.78 :1, 1.85:1, 2.00:1, and 2.39:1. (Everything fits within the 1.78:1 frame, either pillarboxed or letterboxed as needed, so that will cause issues for anyone using a Constant Image Height setup.) Lionsgate’s disc includes High Dynamic Range grades in both Dolby Vision and HDR10. Given the complex nature of the cinematography (and the frequently chaotic nature of the imagery), the actual fine detail on display can vary somewhat from scene to scene, and even from shot to shot. Those details are generally just a bit more refined than on the Blu-ray, but it’s often difficult to tell. Facial closeups, at least, can provide the best examples. A layer of fake grain has been added to some of the footage, varying from barely perceptible to a bit heavier depending on the multiverse involved, but it’s all managed well by the encoding. The contrast range is good, though the black levels aren’t the deepest in the low-light shots, but that appears to be how they were photographed. The color balance also varies from multiverse to multiverse, sometimes drab, sometimes much more vivid. It’s not a dazzling HDR grade, but it does respect the intentions of Seiple and the Daniels.
Audio is offered in English Dolby Atmos, with optional English SDH, Spanish, and Chinese (traditional) subtitles. (The English subtitles for the Mandarin and Cantonese dialogue are burned into the film itself, sometimes creatively so.) It’s an energetic mix, if not always the most immersive. The surrounds and the overheads do spring to active life whenever the action does the same thing, but they’re relatively restrained at other times. The action scenes also do offer plenty of dynamic impact, and there’s some extremely deep bass, especially in the score by the band Son Lux—their musical stinger really sting.
Lionsgate’s 4K Ultra HD release of Everything Everywhere All at Once is a two-disc set that includes a Blu-ray with a 1080p copy of the film, as well as a slipcover that duplicates the artwork on the insert. The extras are identical on both discs, and all of them are in HD:
- Audio Commentary with Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
- Almost Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Everything Everywhere All at Once (40:47)
- Putting Everything on the Bagel: Cooking Up the Multiverse (10:13)
- Alpha-Bits (11:23)
- Deleted Scenes with Commentary (13:51, in all)
- Outtakes (8:30)
- Music Visual (2:42)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:44)
- Also from A24 (9:04, 4 in all)
The commentary with the Daniels was recorded while they were still doing a press tour for Everywhere Everything All at Once, so while they admit that they’re a bit tired and frazzled, it’s still interesting that they had no idea at that point just how successful that the film would be. They admit that there’s so much going on in the film that it’s hard to do a commentary on it. They do delve into many of the subtle details in a not particularly subtle film, many of which aren’t necessarily obvious on a first viewing (Including a rather obvious Douglas Adams joke that still might be easy to miss). They’re inevitably forced to jump from thought to thought while the film jumps from multiverse to multiverse, but it’s still a fascinating commentary track for anyone who wants to dig deeper into the thought processes of the Daniels, with all that entails.
Almost Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Everything Everywhere All at Once is a documentary by Cliff Stephenson that mixes interviews with the cast & crew, film clips, and behind-the-scenes footage. It’s pretty entertaining in its own right, since it respects the freewheeling nature of the film itself by being equally unhinged—at one point, the Daniels openly mock the blasé nature of the EPK interview process by answering questions in character as a part of the rock universe. It’s a worthwhile documentary that definitely proves that the film was a labor of love for everyone involved, even if a better title would have been Almost Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Everything Everywhere All at Once*(*But Were Afraid to Ask).
Putting Everything on the Bagel: Cooking up the Multiverse focuses more narrowly on the main characters and the actors who brought them to life (including the stuntpeople). Jamie Lee Curtis calls the film a bucket list checklist of things that she’s never done before, and never will do again. Alpha-Bits is a random collection of various bits and pieces: visual effects breakdowns; morning warmups with the cast & crew; stunt rehearsals; timelapse footage; and B-roll footage. The Deleted Scenes play together in order, without an option to play any of them individually, but that’s how the Daniels wanted them to be seen. They also offer brief introductions for each scene. If the hot dog fingers multiverse was a bit strange for your tastes, wait until you see the one that didn’t make the final cut. The Outtakes aren’t necessarily that amusing, but they do show how much fun that everyone was having on set, and just what kinds of things that the Daniels were doing off-camera to motivate the actors. The Music Visual is a sort of a music video for the song This Is a Life, featuring an appropriate backdrop. Finally, Also from A24 features trailers for X, After Yang, The Green Knight, and Swiss Army Man.
If any disc ever called out for an annotation track, it’s this one, but there’s still plenty of interesting information offered in the extras that it does include. If anything, it’s best to leave a few mysteries for viewers to uncover on their own. Everything Everywhere All at Once is an improbable success story built on the concept of improbability (one of the Waymonds tells Evelyn that she’s capable of anything in the multiverse because she’s so bad at everything). As any good Douglas Adams fan can tell you, improbability can be infinite, and untangling all of those improbabilities is what makes Everything so fun to watch, and even more fun to rewatch.
- Stephen Bjork