One of the joys of watching Everything Everywhere All at Once is just how initially bewildering its absurd science-fiction premise is to begin with. It starts relatively grounded in a familiar, yet still chaotic setting, as we follow middle-aged Chinese American woman Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) who is barely holding it together as she attempted to juggle all the aspects of her life, and by doing so estranging herself even further from every member of her family, including her kind yet defeated husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) who wants a divorce. During an appointment with the IRS to go over some dubious receipts relating to her laundromat business, Evelyn is seemingly split into two different realities, one of which involves a different version of Waymond telling her that not just her reality, but all possible realities, are under threat and only she can save the multiverse.
A full explanation of what is going on, how the film manages a protagonist who starts leaping between realities, and why doing random and often disgusting actions is so important, is eventually provided, but for a significant part of the film’s running time there is simply a sheer exhilaration to be had in being overwhelmed by the strangeness of it all. At first just taking the film’s comedic inventiveness at face value is an incredible pleasure and a reminder of an era of mainstream filmmaking that did not feel the need to over explain everything upfront. The fact that the giddiness, silliness and frequently crudeness of Everything Everywhere All at Once is ultimately based on a foundation of sincerity and pathos makes it a triumph of contemporary filmmaking.