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Everything Everywhere All at Once review – nothing nowhere over a long period of time

By Peter Bradshaw
Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once.
Crazy journey … Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once. Photograph: A24/Allstar

This hipster hypefest is an adventure in alternative existences and multiverse realities from writer-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – the “Daniels” – who in 2016 gave us the Jonzeian comedy Swiss Army Man. Everything Everywhere All at Once has been critically swooned over in the US and pretty much everywhere else, so it’s disconcerting to find it frantically hyperactive and self-admiring and yet strangely laborious, dull and overdetermined, never letting up for a single second to let us care about, or indeed believe in, any of its characters.

Michelle Yeoh plays Evelyn, a Chinese-American woman who co-owns a scuzzy laundromat with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan); Evelyn is discontented with her life and has a tense relationship with her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu), using Joy’s frail and old-fashioned grandfather Gong Gong (James Hong) – who lives with them – as an excuse not to accept Joy’s gay identity. Evelyn reaches a crisis when confronted by an angry tax officer, Deirdre Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis), who is auditing their business, and furious about Evelyn’s attempts to claim deductions for a karaoke machine for the laundromat’s community party nights, at which Evelyn also offers food. In her heart, poor Evelyn figures she could have been a singer, or a chef, or a movie star in another life and this tax-deduction issue triggers a crazy journey into any number of different universes for more than two hours.

There are some nice gags and sprightly Kubrickian touches, and one genuinely shocking scene when Evelyn fat-shames her daughter – an authentically upsetting moment of family dysfunction that seems to come from another film, one in a parallel universe. But this mad succession of consequence-free events, trains of activity which get cancelled by a switch to another parallel world, means that nothing is actually at stake, and the film becomes a formless splurge of Nothing Nowhere Over a Long Period of Time. Again, this film is much admired and arrives adorned with saucer-eyed critical notices … I wish I liked it more.

• Everything Everywhere All at Once is released in cinemas on 13 May.

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Dive Deeper:
Everything Everywhere All at Once review: An ingenious, nuanced multiverse that leaves Marvel in the dust
To say this is a showcase for Michelle Yeoh’s talent almost feels like an understatement
Everything Everywhere All at Once review: An ingenious, nuanced multiverse that leaves Marvel in the dust
To say this is a showcase for Michelle Yeoh’s talent almost feels like an understatement
‘Everything Everywhere’ Creators Set Out to Surprise with Sci-Fi Action Comedy
As its title suggests, "Everything Everywhere All at Once" from creative duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, takes audiences on…
‘I told Jackie Chan, your loss, my bro!’: how Everything Everywhere gave Michelle Yeoh the role of a lifetime
The action superstar shines in a new multiverse comedy. She talks about her high-risk, low-budget Hong Kong days, why you…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Everything Everywhere All at Once review – multiverse madness with meaning
Michelle Yeoh has fun playing a laundrette owner transported into ever more baffling parallel worlds in this unusually touching indie…
'Everything Everywhere All At Once' book excerpt opens up the multiverse [Exclusive]
Inverse is proud to exclusively share Lizzy Stewart’s comic “The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett III,” from A24’s official companion…
Get all your news in one place