Film review: Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)

I watched this film that has garnered a number of awards and eleven nominations for this year’s Academy Awards. It takes the intriguing scientific concept of the multiverse as its basic premise, that the universe splits and branches at various points and hence there are a huge number of parallel universes, of which ours is just one, that have different degrees of similarity to our own depending on how long ago those universes split away and evolved independently. As far as we know, if the multiverse exists, there seems to be no known connection between the various universes but in this film, the main characters can move between them.

Given the acclaim that the film has received and that the multiverse is the driving idea, I anticipated enjoying it but found the film to be a huge disappointment. It started out trying to make some points about why some people are moving from universe to universe (because they are trying to stop a very bad person from doing some very bad thing) but about two-thirds of the way through, the screenwriters seemed to lose interest in that and instead turned the film into a fairly standard family drama involving the strained relationships in families and the way they play out in the various universes.

You cannot say it is boring because the film moves at an frenetic pace, with extremely rapid sequences of cuts showing the different lives of the characters in the different universes as they confront what might have happened if they had made different choices in life. These rapid cuts can be exhausting to watch. The film seems to be largely a showcase for special effects, used copiously to capture the martial arts fights and the transitions between universes. In between, there is some scientific and philosophical mumbo-jumbo thrown in to try and tell the viewer what the multiverse is and what it means for our lives, livened up with some comedic interludes.

The film runs for 2 hours and 20 minutes and I think it would have been better if it had perhaps focused more on the two different universes of the main characters that took them on very different paths and what glimpses into that alternate life might have felt to them. All of us think of choices we have made in our lives and what might have happened if we had made different ones. A film grappling with that theme would have universal appeal. This film does feature the story of two different lives but that gets buried in all the razzle-dazzle. It could also have been shortened by about 30 minutes by truncating the many extremely long fight scenes which I found to be repetitive and boring though these seem to be popular with audiences. I am clearly not the target audience for films like these.

I cannot really recommend this film unless you are a fan of martial arts and special effects. Here’s the trailer.


  1. Holms says

    All of us think of choices we have made in our lives…

    Huh. I thought you didn’t believe we are capable of making choices?

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    My multiverse scenario: new universes diverge from the old every time a quark moves one Planck length in any direction from its previous location -- none of this if-Bonaparte-won-at-Waterloo threshold stuff.

    So we all move from one universe to another all the time, and never notice the difference (except those sad lost souls from realms where whites are inherently superior, women intrinsically subordinate, and free-market economies work out for the overall social good -- those guys somehow got so far from home…).

    Putting the quarks back in place will make it seem easy to catch that damn Chinese butterfly whose wingstrokes cause all those storms in Kansas.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    Fans of multiverse fiction should track down Paul J. McAuley’s Cowboy Angels, a rather noir transdimensional CIA novel (no relation to the movies or songs of the same name).

  4. Mano Singham says

    Holms @#1,

    Sure, but we think we have free will and think we make choices.

    As Isaac Beshevis singer said, “We must believe in free will. We have no choice.”

  5. says

    Given the acclaim that the film has received and that the multiverse is the driving idea, I anticipated enjoying it but found the film to be a huge disappointment.

    It seems to me you were disappointed because you expected a Marvel/SF movie dealing with the idea of a multiverse, which you found intriguing. But that’s not what “Everything Everywhere” was (not in this universe at least); it’s primarily a story about a wife and mom, who seems to have attention and focus issues, dealing with multiple crises of divorce, estranged daughter and a tax audit (the paperwork for which was as chaotic as her mind seems to be), and finding herself thinking of what her life would have been like if she’d done things differently, and whether this or that timeline was the best choice. The multiverse stuff is just a sort of plot/rhetorical device, and the bit about getting powers from our alternate-universe selves is a metaphor for how we can remember, discover or enhance certain personal strengths/skills within ourselves partly by imagining alternate life-choices where those are more central than they are in our present reality.

  6. Mano Singham says

    Raging Bee,

    Actually, the reverse is true.

    If I had expected a Marvel/SF film, I would not have watched it because I do not like that genre. I expected to see a film of the kind you describe about dealing with the consequences of life choices but what I got was (to me at least) a Marvel-type film. As Richard Brody writes in a New Yorker review, “With its bland and faux-universal life lessons that cheaply ethicalize expensive sensationalism, the film comes off as a sickly cynical feature-length directorial pitch reel for a Marvel movie.”

  7. says

    Sounds like that New Yorker reviewer doesn’t get satire. For starters, how does this movie “cheaply ethicalize expensive sensationalism?” I didn’t get a 100% serious vibe from it — it was clearly being humorous and sometimes even silly, even though it was dealing with a serious, albeit not earth-shattering, crisis in one family’s relationships. There was hugely portentious/pretentious stuff about “saving the universe,” but that just seemed more of a reference to how the protagonist was thinking/fantasizing about herself and her place in the frenetic drama of her own life; and maybe an indication that she was dreaming of being in a hugely dramatic high-stakes epic struggle while getting bogged down in stressful mundane laundry-and-taxes treadmill.

    As for “bland and faux-universal life lessons,” the life-lessons were indeed kind of bland and not very original (which may have been part of the point — maybe the wisdom and insight she needed were in her life already); but I wouldn’t call them “faux.”

  8. outis says

    As far as I am concerned, I rather liked this movie, but yes it’s not perfect. A bit overlong, and does it ever ramble in every possible direction (which may be the point after all). It would have massively benefited from tighter, more careful writing, which is more or less a general rule for 99% of the movies I’m seeing lately. But there’s some good work by actors who are visibly enjoying themselves, and I did find the wacky ideas the movie throws at you quite amusing. I’d recommend it with a caution: be prepared for a bizarre ride, and do enjoy the whimsy.

  9. Mano Singham says

    Holms @#8,

    All our actions and ‘decisions’ are the consequence of a complex interplay of external stimuli and our prior life experience, making it hard to single out any single causal factor for any specific action.

  10. says

    It would have massively benefited from tighter, more careful writing…

    I suspect the protagonists may have been thinking the same thing about their own lives.

  11. says

    All our actions and ‘decisions’ are the consequence of a complex interplay of external stimuli and our prior life experience, making it hard to single out any single causal factor for any specific action.

    OTOH, free will might consist of thoughts coming from different realities.

  12. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @14: Hoary indeed.

    And who will search through the wide infinities of space to count the universes side by side, each containing its Brahma, its Vishnu, its Shiva? Who can count the Indras in them all--those Indras side by side, who reign at once in all the innumerable worlds; those others who passed away before them; or even the Indras who succeed each other in any given line, ascending to godly kingship, one by one, and, one by one, passing away.

    — Brahma Vaivarta Purana

  13. birgerjohansson says

    The Peripheral TV series based on the novel by William Gibson has better potential.

    It is a modified version of the multiverse- some communication is possible and you can even “reach back” to an earlier time at a different world line, but once you have established contact there is no “slippage” of time. You can communicate with the other universe without time paradoxes.
    Another TV series -- I forgot the title- has a cop experience the same day over and over again, allowing him to expose a conspiracy of corrupt colleagues. This was loosely inspired by the multiverse theory.

  14. Silentbob says

    @ Holms

    Hey, I know you’re not alowed to comment on trans people because of your bigotry, but I’m genuinely curious:
    Now that Donald “pussygrabber” Trump has basically come out as the American JKR, or Helen Joyce, are your buddies back at bigot central still coping with the cognitive dissonance of pretending there’s anything remotely feminist about their hate movement, or have they given up and just embraced being part of one the most hard right reactionary movements in living memory? I know, for example, Ophelia hates Trump almost as much as she hates trans people -- has the penny started to drop yet, or is she still pretending these positions can be consistent?
    As I said, I know you can’t respond here, but I’d be interested for you to raise the question elsewhere.
    I’m just curious what it takes to get through to people who have been radicalised. Can they even see the truth right under their nose?

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