Review by Katie McKenna
Going to the cinema alone is one of my guilty pleasures. A lot of people ask me why I love seeing films solo so much and I usually give them a pretentious answer like; “having other people around ruins the immersion”. That’s not the truth. It’s because I cry easily at films and I’m so embarrassed about this, that my nightmare would be for someone to see it happen. Hearing about the time I was three and cried during Madagascar (Tom McGrath and Eric Darnell, 2005) still makes me audibly cringe to this day (It was during the scene where Alex realises he can’t be friends with Marty anymore because he wants to eat him. In case you were wondering). And as I got older these tears during movies became a bigger and bigger source of shame. Until one day I stopped crying during films. In the battle between what I thought was willpower (but I now know was humiliation) and sincerity, willpower had ‘won’. But I kept seeing films alone, just in case I had a moment of weakness.
Everything Everywhere All at Once (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, 2022) follows middle-aged Chinese immigrant Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) as she struggles to run her laundromat, keep her family together, please her disapproving father (James Hong), and most importantly do her taxes.
It’s hard to where to start when writing about Everything Everywhere All at Once. You can write about how the directors were originally meant to direct the Marvel series Loki (Kate Herron, 2021-), but left because they felt a big studio was suppressing their vision. And by sticking to their guns and telling the story they truly wanted to tell they made a film leaps and bounds better than anything produced by Marvel. Or you could write about the huge amount of multiverse films being made at the moment, and what this newfound desire to explore different realities, just like ours but with a few small tweaks, says about a society who lost two whole years to a pandemic. But all this seems like a disservice to the Daniels’ film and everything it stands for.
As I taught myself not to cry and detach myself from films, it seemed like Hollywood was doing the same. I wasn’t the only one finding sincerity more and more scary. In the last ten years it seems like every blockbuster is becoming more self-deprecating. With characters pointing out clichés and plot-holes within the film or undermining any genuine moment with some quippy dialogue. Everything Everywhere All at Once is the antithesis to this. Unlike myself and a lot of modern blockbusters, it isn’t crippled with self-doubt and fear of what other people may think. The only word I can think of to describe EEAAO is nice, and I mean that as the highest form of compliment. It’s a rare type of film that takes itself seriously in all the right ways, and had me beaming for every second of it, even as tears streamed down my face. The Daniels have crafted a film that wears its heart on its sleeve and is all the better for it.
Call Me by Your Name (Luca Guadagnino, 2017) has one of my favourite quotes about heartbreak ever, “To feel nothing so as not to feel anything—what a waste!”. I think this quote applies to films too. It takes bravery to be simple and sincere. To believe in what you’re saying, to present your emotions to others and leave them there, not undermining them, and ask others to feel them with you. That’s what so rare and special about Everything Everywhere All at Once. Why are we watching films, if not to feel something? What is the point of a movie devoid of emotion or meaning. Being ironic is the easy, and lazy choice. After I would cry at movie, I would feel embarrassed, but long after the shame left the film would stay with me longer than any quip ever could. These moments that could move me to tears would live in my brain forever, and come back as memories when I needed it the most. I hope more filmmakers take the Daniels’ lead, because if EEAAO has taught me anything it’s that in a confusing meaningless world, all that matters is kindness and sincerity. And I’m ready to cry at movies again.