Everything Everywhere All at Once: 2022’s Most Important Film


Photo courtesy of Google images

Teddy Golumbeski

As 2022 comes to an end and 2023 arrives, Los Angeles gears up for awards season and many news publications assemble their year-end lists of the best films of 2022. In a world where thousands of films are produced each year, naming one film the best of them all is a difficult if not impossible task. Much easier to determine is the most impactful and culturally significant film of the year, and this year that film is Everything Everywhere All at Once.

Everything Everywhere All at Once is a dramedy film starring Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang, a Chinese immigrant to the United States who owns a car wash being audited by the IRS. Her life essentially collapses as her relationships with her husband, father, and daughter are strained and the future of her business is threatened. In the midst of this crisis, she is thrust into the multiverse, a world outside of her understanding where she can save the entire realm of existence by venturing through better, happier versions of her own life. While the multiverse has quickly become a tired concept with films like Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Everything Everywhere All at Once has been praised for its absurdist take on the trope and meaningful use of it to create conflict within Evelyn. The film also uses the multiverse to explore nihilism, existentialism, and generational trauma, themes that previous multiverse films had not explored. As subjective as it is to say, it seems that Everything Everywhere All at Once easily perfected a trope on a small budget that many big budget franchises have failed to fully realize even after multiple attempts.

On the subject of money, the film industry has become an increasingly one-sided landscape since the start of the 21st century. With the rise of streaming, the majority of remaining theater-goers choose to spend their money on familiar names. This is best evidenced by this year’s domestic box office: each of the top ten highest grossing films this year are sequels or new installments in pre-existing multi-million dollar franchises. According to Box Office Mojo, each of the top 24 highest grossing films were all distributed by one of the same five media behemoths,  illustrating the increasingly monopolistic nature of modern cinema. Scrolling through the list, Everything Everywhere All at Once stands out at 26th place, distributed by A24. A24 is a film production and distribution company that has grown increasingly popular over the last decade as it has become one of the most recognizable names in the independent film scene. Despite its growing popularity, prior to Everything Everywhere All at Once, A24 struggled to find a solid foothold in the box office due to its lack of recognizable franchises. That changed with Everything Everywhere All at Once, which became A24’s first film ever to gross 100 million dollars internationally. After years of critical acclaim for its projects, Everything Everywhere All at Once was A24’s first smash hit, and its success proves that original independent films can still compete with big franchises.

Culturally, Everything Everywhere All at Once has proven to be something of a small phenomenon. Many viewers resonated with the film’s exploration of middle-class immigrants, generational conflicts, and national and sexual identity, all of which are somewhat unusual for sci-fi action films. Beyond that, however, the film has brought new attention to lead actress Michelle Yeoh and supporting actor Ke Huy Quan, both of whom have received recognition on end-of-year lists for their performances and some believing they may receive Oscar nods. The praise received by Yeoh for her performance led TIME Magazine to name her 2022’s “Icon of the Year” due to her status as a symbol of second chances; until her more recent performances, she was typecast for roles based on her ethnicity. Yeoh is not the only actor in the film’s cast who has received a second chance; it completely revitalized the career of Ke Huy Quan, who starred as Evelyn’s husband Waymond. Quan was a child star, famous for his critically panned role as Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Following negative reception to the role of Short Round, he struggled to find more job opportunities and was forced to retire from acting. Everything Everywhere All at Once was his triumphant return to the world of cinema, and his performance has garnered him critical acclaim and numerous new acting opportunities. 

True, Everything Everywhere All at Once may not necessarily be 2022’s best film, and it may not receive as much recognition in awards season as the year’s other releases, but its impact and importance is undeniable. The film reimagined an overused sci-fi trope, challenged the box office status quo, and revitalized actors’ careers. What other 2022 film has done the same?