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Flix at :48: 'Everything Everywhere All At Once' explores family and identity

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A poster for 'Everything Everywhere All At Once.' The background is red. In the forefront, Michelle Yeoh is ready to engage in martial arts.
A24 Films

I know this film was released in select Utah movie theaters on April 8th, and was then released more widely in Utah on April 15th, but I had to address it this week because it's such a breath of startlingly fresh air. Everything Everywhere All at Once is a perplexing and stirring tale of one woman's journey of identity.

Michelle Yeoh (Last Christmas, 2019) plays a stressed Chinese immigrant living with her husband in a cluttered apartment above the laundromat she operates in Southern California. An overwhelming appointment to the IRS becomes a springboard into multiple universes where our leading lady learns of an infinite number of planet Earths each with a different version of herself with life unfolding in a different direction. (This concept comes from a real-life scientific theory called the multiverse, and this concept is gaining more mainstream popularity thanks to some recent and upcoming Marvel superhero movies.) By learning to transport herself mentally into her body in these other universes, she gains skills and perspectives to fight against a destructive force and understand the importance of her family relationships.

Even this description from me is far too simplistic, because this film is exploding with ideas, themes and plot points too numerous to mention. It feels like a schizophrenic kaleidoscope injected with adrenaline to spin faster and faster. From co-directors and co-screenwriters Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (who gave viewers the delightfully surreal film Swiss Army Man in 2016) this film is a mixture of genres from fast fighting action to moving family drama to science-fiction hallucination. But Everything Everywhere All at Once is not just an unbridled fun house overflowing with every idea under the sun to maintain the continually disintegrating attention spans of young viewers (like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen from 2003, Dark Shadows from 2012, or every Transformers movie ever made). It's so thoughtfully written, and so sincerely acted, that it holds you passionately eager for more.

Yes, it's a wacky mixture of comedy, pacing and mood, but this mixture is so well-balanced, so polished and so committed to the honesty of family relationships, it works far beyond my expectations. This film is polished due to its visually brilliant and swift transitions (whether jumping from one universe to another or from one genre to another), and this film is committed due to each actor giving a serious, realistically subtle performance of an ordinary person.

Your mind won't have any time to relax during this film, but you'll have more fun than you expect. Spoken partly in English, Cantonese and Mandarin, with two women well beyond 50-years-old in some of the starring roles, it's exciting to know there's still filmmakers out there who are devoted to original unexpected storytelling.

Casey T. Allen is a native of Utah who graduated from Utah State University with a Bachelor's degree in English in 2007. He has worked in many capacities throughout USU campus and enjoys his time at UPR to continually exercise his writing.