The Daniels’ bold and sincere film, “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” rises above the boundaries of sorts. It’s a comedy, martial art, family drama, an existential investigation of vacancy, and a mind-bending jump into the multiverse – all wrapped up in a story around a battling laundromat proprietor named Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh). Through its inventive and layered design, the film utilizes space to portray the unfathomability of the multiverse and investigate the complexities of Evelyn’s interior world. As we dig into an architectural analysis of this cinematic wonder, we set out on a journey through the complicated layers of its story structure and thematical reverberation. 

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Everything Everywhere All At Once_©Metalocus.en

In this movie architecture is not just a backdrop but a story device. At the heart of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” lies a significant structural system that mirrors the complexity of its multiversal story. The film’s structure is associated with a complicatedly planned maze, with each hallway and chamber driving to the modern dimensions of the story. Much like a modeler meticulously plans the format of a building, the director carefully develops the film’s story design, permitting consistent moves between different universes and characters.

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Preliminary Design of Wang’s Apartment_©Jason Kisvarday

One of the most striking architectural elements of the film is its use of interconnected spaces and portals. Just as architecture shapes the way we explore physical situations, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” controls the texture of space and time, making wormholes and entryways that bridge the interruption between parallel worlds. These entrances serve as symbolic edges, welcoming characters and audiences alike to rise above the confinements of their individual realities and investigate the boundless potential of the multiverse. Moreover, the film’s architectural design extends beyond its spatial dimensions to encompass its temporal structure. Much like an architect designs a building to withstand the passage of time, the directors craft a narrative that spans centuries and lifetimes. Through the utilization of nonlinear narration and temporal loops, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” opposes conventional chronology, welcoming viewers to mull over the recurrent nature of existence and the interconnection of past, present, and future. Moreover, due to its architectural complexity, the film’s thematic reverberation is profoundly established within the concept of diversity. 

A World Built on Chaos: 

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Wang’s Laundromat_©Jason Kisvarday

The film opens amidst the controlled chaos of Evelyn’s laundromat, “Waymond’s Washette.” Stacked laundry piles become mountains, receipts flutter like nervous butterflies, and fluorescent lights cast a sterile glow. This small space, designed by Jason Kisvarday, serves as a tiny version of Evelyn’s life – chaotic, overwhelming, and on the edge of collapsing. The shabby beige walls and utilitarian furniture make a sense of mundanity, a stark distinction from the fantastical universe Evelyn soon experiences.

Fractured Familiarity: Shifting Universes and Set Design

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Hot Dog Fingers Universe_©Jason Kisvarday

Evelyn’s journey through the multiverse takes her to an astonishing array of parallel realities. Each universe boasts its unique architectural style, reflecting the underlying themes and anxieties of that particular world. In the “Hot Dog Fingers” universe, everything is made of hot dogs, with buildings resembling giant sausages and furniture fashioned from buns. This exaggerated and grotesque environment underscores the absurdity of existence and the potential for meaninglessness.

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Opera Singer Universe_©Metalocus

In distinction, the lavish “Opera Singer” universe highlights rich, neoclassical interiors. Marble flooring, towering columns, and crystal chandeliers construct an air of greatness and honor. However, the characters’ constant singing and operatic pronouncements highlight the performative nature of this world and the hollowness beneath its elegant facade. The movie’s architecture is not just a backdrop but a narrative device. The endless cubicles of the IRS office represent the monotonous, bureaucratic trap Evelyn feels caught in. As she ‘verse-jumps,’ each universe presents a distinct architectural style, reflecting the infinite possibilities of choices made or not made. 

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IRS Building_©Metalocus.en

The Comfort of Imperfection: Evelyn’s Apartment

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Wang Household’s Living Area_©Jason Kisvarday

Even within the fantastical multiverse, the film carves out space for emotional vulnerability. Evelyn’s messy apartment, filled with personal belongings and childhood toys, serves as a refuge from the chaos. This lived-in environment, with its imperfect charm, represents the familiar and the loved. It’s a place where she can reconnect with her estranged daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), and confront their unresolved issues.

Breaking Through Walls: Portals and Bridges

Dana Mohamed Ali

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Bagel Portal Jump in Office_©Jason Kisvarday

The film uses portals and bridges as recurring architectural motifs to illustrate the interconnectedness of the multiverse and the potential for connection. Circular portals, resembling laundry chutes, open doorways to alternate realities, forcing Evelyn to confront the vastness of possibility. However, the film also emphasizes the importance of building bridges. In the emotional climax, Evelyn chooses not to “verse-jump” (escape to another reality) but instead uses her newfound understanding to connect with Joy. This act, symbolized by a literal rope bridge constructed from their memories, demonstrates the power of empathy and communication in overcoming personal conflict. 

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Alphaverse_©Jason Kisvarday

Beyond Spectacle: Architecture as Emotional Landscape

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Actress Universe_©Allyson Riggs

Whereas “Everything Everywhere All at Once” brags dazzling visuals and mind-bending action in sequence, its architectural choices eventually serve a more profound reason. The film uses space not just as a background but as a capable device to reflect Evelyn’s emotional voyage and the existential questions that she tackles. The sterile order of the laundromat, the exaggerated absurdity of the hot dog universe, and the comforting familiarity of her apartment all contribute to the film’s emotional tapestry. 

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Temple of the Bagel’s Set_©Allyson Riggs

In the climactic scene set in the penultimate universe of the film, “The Temple of the Bagel,” the character Joy introduces Evelyn to a surreal entity known as “the everything bagel.” This perplexing structure serves as a sign of Joy’s deep-seated generational distress. The scene unravels with the breathtaking view of Vibiana, a historic catholic church remodeled as an occasion setting in downtown LA. The magnificence of the Baroque-style haven, embellished with Carrara marble walls and towering Corinthian columns, gives out majestic air to the setting. In spite of budget limitations, the creative group capitalized on the venue’s broad white space, utilizing innovative strategies such as low-lying smoke to cloud the windowless environment. This juxtaposition of ethereal beauty and haunting atmosphere adds depth and intrigue to the pivotal moment in the narrative.

Conclusion: A Genre-Bending Masterpiece

Moreover, the film’s investigation of the character and self-discovery resounds with topics of architectural expression and spatial character. Just as buildings reflect the values and goals of their makers, the characters in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” hook with questions of reason and belonging, exploring the overly complex hallways of their own personalities. Whether they are a middle-aged mother, a kung fu master, or an interdimensional creature, each character leaves a permanent mark on the multiverse, shaping its architecture and its tenants in significant ways.

As we mull over the architectural wonders of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” we are reminded of the control of cinema to rise above the boundaries of space and time. Much like a visionary architect who dreams of modern universes and conceivable outcomes, the executives of this film have created a cinematic wonder that welcomes audiences to investigate the tremendous region of the multiverse. Through its complicated story structure, thematic reverberation, and boundless creative ability, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” stands as a confirmation of the boundless potential of narrating and the persevering legacy of visionary filmmaking.

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” may be a cinematic wonder that pushes the boundaries of narrating and visual creative energy. Through its innovative utilization of space, the film creates a multiversal landscape that reflects the complexities of human experience. Each architectural setting is an expansion of the characters’ enthusiastic states. It is a film that will remain with you long after the credits roll, provoking reflection on the significance of human connection, the beauty of flaw, and the control we ought to discover meaning in the face of a ridiculously tremendous multiverse.

Reference list:

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  • CLARA BARROS, A. (2022). The brilliant cinematography behind the multiverse of Everything, everywhere, all at once | The Strength of Architecture | From 1998. [online] www.metalocus.es. Available at: https://www.metalocus.es/en/news/brilliant-cinematography-behind-multiverse-everything-everywhere-all-once.
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  • Gates, M.E. (2023). Everything Everywhere All at Once movie review (2022) | Roger Ebert. [online] https://www.rogerebert.com/. Available at: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/everything-everywhere-all-at-once-2022.
  • Nast, C. (2023). How ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ Taps Into the Unspoken Asian-American Experience Through Design. [online] Architectural Digest. Available at: https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/everything-everywhere-all-at-once-asian-american-experience-though-design.
  • Riggs, A. (2023). How Everything Everywhere All at Once Taps Into the Unspoken Asian-American Experience Through Design. Architecturaldigest.com. Available at: https://media.architecturaldigest.com/photos/63f69b67782302990922604e/master/w_1600 [Accessed 28 Mar. 2024].
  • vectoreditors (2022). A Journey to the Narrative Design in Everything Everywhere All At Once. [online] Available at: https://vector-bsfa.com/2022/10/21/a-journey-to-the-narrative-design-in-everything-everywhere-all-at-once/.
  • Wilson, M. (2023). Everything Everywhere All at Once’ won’t win the Oscar it should have won automatically. [online] Fact Company. Available at: https://www.fastcompany.com/90861934/the-years-biggest-oscar-snub-is-a-design-masterpiece-made-on-a-shoestring-budget.

 

Author

Dana Mohamed Ali is a passionate architect and writer with a keen interest in sustainable vernacular design and urban planning. She believes in the power of architecture to positively impact communities and enjoy exploring innovative solutions, blending modern and traditional design approaches, through her writing.