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EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE

(The 2022 SXSW Film Festival runs March 11-20 in glorious Austin, Texas. Check out Melanie Addington’s movie review of Everything Everywhere All At Once. Join the conversation with HtN on our Letterboxd Page.)

When people who love movies make a movie, it shows. With Daniels’ newest, Everything Everywhere All At Once, it shows across all universes. With a sci-fi homage to some of the great films that came before it and with unique twists only the two Daniels’ can pull off, the film world premiered to roaring applause at South By Southwest on Friday.

The sophomore feature film of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Daniels’ of Swiss Army Man fame), the story has a familiar feel from their last films of universality, the human struggle to connect, the “what-if-you-took-a-different-path” and a pervasive thread of the fine line between our choices and what road they take us on. But with leads such as Michelle Yeoh, James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis, and stand-out role for Stephanie Hsu (Marvelous Miss Maisel), we are elevated to the best of the art form – a true collaboration where something magic happens.

Harry Shum, Jr (Crazy Rich Asians) also has a great role in the film but it was the triumphant return of beloved actor Ke Huy Quan (Goonies, Indiana Jones, and the Temple of Doom) that got many fans off their feet after 20 years away from being in front of the camera. Somehow still a little bit of his childlike essence remained on camera while before us a full-grown adult had also turned into a great love interest. At least one director also has a fun cameo that you have to see to believe.

And while you could argue every single character is what makes the film, it is the perfectly bizarre twists and turns for each actor living out a multiverse role of their multiple selves that brings the film to its culmination. Each person in the film belongs there. Each person in the film shines and makes the film special in ways that work perfectly as an ensemble.

And while the nods to films range from Wizard of Oz, Sliding Doors and The Matrix to Kung Fu classics to the rich romantic tapestry of Hong Kong to even modern-day animation, the film tours all possible things, ranging from ridiculous to generational trauma in a smart, savvy way that understands the human condition. Also celebrating the Chinese New Year, the film nods to the cyclical nature of life, the changing of seasons, and the renewal of spring.

But at its heart is the story of a family and the decisions we make that either harm or heal each other. And this film elevates the mundane to something special when all the ridiculous ideas of what it means to be human in a nihilistic way, what boils down, in the end, is just a choice. The film speaks to the Asian American experience, to the daughter-mother relationship, to the strained business owner, to the person who gets things wrong, to the person struggling with ADHD, depression, coming out. It is all of this and more. And at times, it is just about a raccoon or some googly eyes.

At the Q&A opening night, the questions ranged from how the directors take on mental illness to generational trauma to the behind-the-scenes revelations of starting the film in fall 2016 to editing it through COVID-19 to releasing it in a war. Whether you fall in love with the film or can’t quite buy into the googly-eyes bonkers world of it all, you will keep thinking about it and you will want to talk to others about it. It may not have been intended to release now in 2022, but somehow, kind of like life, it is almost as if it was meant for just this time to balance out the universe a bit.

– Melanie Addington (@MelAddington)

2022 SXSW Film Festival; The Daniels; Everything Everywhere All At Once film review
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Melanie Addington is the Executive Director of Tallgrass Film Association as of 2021. She has worked in the film festival world since 2006, first as a volunteer, and then eventually becoming the Oxford Film Festival Executive Director in August 2015. She used to be a reporter for the Oxford Eagle (a community newspaper) and then Pizza Magazine Quarterly (a global trade magazine). She still loves pizza. And she still writes for Hammer to Nail and Film Festival Today about her other great love: movies. She is from Southern California originally but has lived in the South for 20 years. She has family in Wichita, Kansas, and considers it a great new home. She also writes, directs, and produces films. She is married and has one son.

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