With the Quirk Factor turned up to 11, Michelle Yeoh is catapulted through infinite versions of her character’s life in All At Once, writes Alistair Harkness
All everywhere at once (15) ****
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (12A) ****
Swirl (15) ****
Father Stu (15) *
A family drama as a wild, interdimensional martial arts fantasy, Everything everywhere at once takes the suddenly fashionable concept of the multiverse and uses it to drag Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon star Michelle Yeoh through infinite versions of her character’s life as she tries to figure out how to resolve her dysfunctional relationships with her husband, her father and most importantly, her Gen Z daughter. Yeoh plays Evelyn Wang, a first-generation Chinese-American immigrant who, as one character puts it, is living the worst version of her life: the laundry business she runs is under scrutiny; her meek but kind husband (former child star Ke Huy Quan from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) tries to work up the courage to divorce her; Her gay daughter (Stephanie Hsu) is frustrated that she doesn’t accept her for who she is, and the disapproving father (James Hong) she defied as a young woman has just arrived from China to visit.
Arranging all of this in a wonderfully condensed opening salvo that alerts us to the imminent rupture of its middle-aged heroine’s regret-filled existence, the film capitalizes on a meeting between Evelyn and her strict tax officer (a clever twist on Jamie Lee Curtis). the worldly catalyst for the arrival of an ally from another dimension, convinced that she is the savior of all existing branching universes. For the film, this means that Evelyn can visit multiple alternate versions of her life in order to gain the skills needed to stop the forces of chaos engulfing everything – a conceit that directing duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as Daniels) lets you go insane as worlds collide, in which characters become glamorous movie stars, hot-dog-fingered lovers, crudely sketched cartoons, pinatas, and eventually a pair of telepathic rocks.
Though infinitely more compelling than Daniel’s deeply irritating debut, Swiss Army Man, the loner factor remains set at 11 throughout. Still, it’s fun to watch them pay crazy homage to everything from Wong Kar-Wais In the Mood for Love and Ratatouille to 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, and various Bill & Ted films. Her cinematic style, in which everything is crushed in a cartoonish frenzy, is intoxicating – and oddly appropriate for a social media age where it’s all too easy to become overwhelmed by a digital world filled with devastating global events, meaningless celebrities and News and our own banal everyday thoughts at eye level.
Meanwhile, in another multiverse, Marvel wizard Doctor Strange pulls off a better trick than zapping Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker in Spider-Man: No Way Home by bringing Maguire’s Spider-Man director Sam Raimi back into the comic 20 years later -Movie fray draws help show what a modern day superhero movie could be. It’s certainly a good choice on Marvel’s part. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness It largely delivers on the promise of its title thanks to the wildly inventive, entertainingly chaotic visual style Raimi honed on his Evil Dead slapstick horror trilogy. In fact, these films provide an amusing reference point for Marvel’s first horror film.
Notwithstanding Doctor Strange’s cosmic shenanigans (he’s once again played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who employs his full arsenal of abracadabra hand gestures), the film gets entertainingly gruesome when it goes up against Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda, who embraces her Scarlett Witch alter-ego and wreaks havoc on many different worlds in her attempt to travel across the multiverse to find an alternate reality where she can be the mother of the two boys she dreams of every night. That’s about as much as one can divulge without this review getting as insanely convoluted as the film did, but the setting oozes with so much energy that it’s a joy to get carried away with. And who else but Raimi would think of having a half-faced zombie perform a big superhero monologue?
With whirl, Irreversible Director Gasper Noé returns with his most humane film yet: a daring, formally rigorous dementia drama that follows an elderly couple who are being thrown apart by the disease. Noé symbolizes this early on, literally drawing a line down the center of the frame to separate Liu (played by Italian horror master Dario Argento) and Alzheimer’s-stricken Elle (Françoise Lebrun) as they lie asleep in their beds. The rest of the film takes place in split-screen as we follow their interactions over several tense weeks as they rattle around their boho Paris apartment. Noé uses the space crammed with the debris of the lives they’ve built together (books, photos, papers, videotapes) to bring out the richness of her inner life at the moment when Elle’s brain has all the evidence that an idea obliterated, he builds towards a subtly devastating and moving finale.