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9 March 2023

Why Everything Everywhere All at Once deserves every Oscar going

The anti-superhero film encapsulates our dissatisfied, lonely age with wit and originality.

By Musa Okwonga

It is striking that maybe the two best pieces of television and film of the past 12 months feature, at their core, black holes that threaten to devour every element of their surroundings. One of those, Christopher Storer’s The Bear, sees a man imploding with grief at the death of his brother. The other – Everything Everywhere All at Once, which leads this year’s upcoming Oscars with 11 nominations – stars an antagonist whose inner torment is so overwhelming that it literally consumes time and space.

Everything Everywhere, written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert and starring Michelle Yeoh, is a thing of wonder: it is both ferociously smart and outrageously fun. It is the story of Evelyn Quan Wang, a middle-aged laundrette owner going through a divorce. She regrets her life choices, and is suddenly told that the fate of the multiverse relies on her going back through time and making braver ones. Everything Everywhere is a relentless technicolour carousel. It carries the viewer along at bewildering speed and then abruptly stops, shattering you with tenderness.

It is also striking that the Russo brothers, who directed four films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, are producers of this film, which seems to critique the central premise of the Marvel films (that extreme violence ultimately saves the day). Though Everything Everywhere does involve extraordinary fight scenes, it is not a conventional superpower that sees Yeoh’s character emerge victorious. She prevails not because she is invincible, but because she allows herself to be wholly vulnerable, and thus becomes heroic – making Everything Everywhere the greatest anti-superhero movie of recent years.

It is much more than that, though. It is, above all, a meditation on the harm of trying to get through your life without addressing any of the pain that lies at the heart of it. That fear, that avoidance, is more corrosive to us than any comic-book villain. This message, expressed with such craft and care, has resonated so strongly that Everything Everywhere has put up spectacular numbers at the box office, having so far made more than $110m on a relatively small budget.

We are in a time of the Great Resignation, of “quiet quitting”, where more people than ever are reassessing their own life choices and what matters most to them – and concluding that friendships and true intimacy are what they crave the most. Everything Everywhere captures our mass existential crisis, just as Get Out captured our discourse around race. Kwan and Scheinert haven’t just made a sensational film, they have created a movie that encapsulates an age. However many Oscars they and their colleagues do or don’t win this weekend, there cannot be a greater accolade than that.

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