It’s a joy to watch Yeoh go… in any universe: PETER HOSKIN reviews Everything Everywhere All At Once
Everything Everywhere All At Once (15, 139 mins)
Verdict: Multiverse of more madness
Father Stu (15, 124 mins)
Verdict: Badly paced biopic
Answer me this, Nobel physicists: what do you call a multitude of multiverses? A multimultiverse? The infiniverse?
Whatever the word, it is what’s afflicting — oh, gosh — multiplexes at the moment.
After last week’s Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, we now have another film about overlapping, parallel universes.
This one is called Everything Everywhere All At Once, presumably because it originated in a universe without commas.
But, really, it’s the differences between the two films that stand out, rather than their cosmic similarities.
Michelle Yeoh (pictured) stars in Everything Everywhere All At Once, a multiverse-spanning film released by production company A24
The science-fiction action adventure features Yeoh (centre) as a woman who can’t seem to finish her taxes
Everything Everywhere isn’t the next stage of Marvel’s global supremacy plan.
It is, instead, the latest release from A24, the New York-based film company behind such inventive, independent-spirited fare as 2019’s Uncut Gems and last year’s The Green Knight.
What’s more, Everything Everywhere stars Michelle Yeoh.
In fact, technically speaking, it stars lots of Michelle Yeohs. And that is a very good thing indeed.
At the beginning, though, this is not the Yeoh we know: the balletic martial artist from films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000).
Here, she plays Evelyn Wang, the owner of a struggling launderette in Somewheresville, America, whose life is like an extended heart attack.
Bills haven’t been paid. A pathologically dreary IRS agent (played by an almost unrecognisable, and very funny, Jamie Lee Curtis) is on her case. Her sad-eyed husband (Ke Huy Quan) is resigned to a divorce. And will someone — please — just bring some food to her querulous dad (James Hong)?
Yeoh (centre right) plays Evelyn Wang, the owner of a struggling launderette in Somewheresville, America
If that sounds stressful, well, it is — for the viewer, as much as for Wang.
Everything Everywhere is mostly a comedy (and, at times, a hilarious one), but somehow it pulls off the magical trick of making you feel how its characters feel. Harried. Bewildered. Upset.
Then, about 20 minutes in, comes the exhilaration.
That’s when an alternate-universe version of Wang’s husband, going by the call sign ‘Alpha Waymond’, breaks into her reality to inform her that A) a universal peril, who may or may not be their daughter (played by the brilliant Stephanie Hsu), is spreading itself through time and space, and B) she is the only person who can stop it.
Classic movie on TV: On The Town (1949)
The two stars ought to be enough: Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, as sailors in New York.
But if you need more persuading, this is right up there with Kelly and co-director Stanley Donen’s next musical, Singin’ In The Rain.
Sunday, 1.30pm, BBC2
Suddenly, the film really gets to show off some of that A24 inventiveness.
There are different universes, different chronologies and even different cinematic styles — peculiarly, one of the alternate worlds is a dead ringer for Wong Kar-wai’s In The Mood For Love (2000).
Yet co-director-writers Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert manage to make it all cohere.
And Yeoh gets to show off, too.
Turns out, there’s an alternate-universe version of Evelyn Wang who made a few different life choices and ended up as, basically, Michelle Yeoh — a kung fu superstar.
Wang ‘verse-jumps’ (don’t ask) to gain the same skills, and starts punching and pirouetting her way through a series of increasingly colourful fight scenes.
Followed by more fight scenes. And more fight scenes. And … there probably is a point at which Everything Everywhere lives up to its name and becomes too much.
In its search for a meaning, the film can’t decide bet-ween about three, so it just goes on with more brawls, more movie references, more puerile gags and more sentiment.
But, still, more Yeoh is more Yeoh. There may be some awful universe where she isn’t one of the most capable, likeable frontwomen in film, but, thankfully, it’s not this one.
‘I ain’t doing none of that blue-collar bull****!’ wails Mark Wahlberg at the start of Father Stu. What follows is two hours of blue-collar … boilerplate might be a better word.
The soundtrack is full of twangy country guitars and Dolly Parton. The men are burly and grizzled. There’s a lot of cussin’ and scrappin’.
But there’s also an extraordinary true story underpinning it.
Mark Wahlberg (pictured) plays Stuart Long, a small-town boxer who became a priest before being struck down with a degenerative illness, in Father Stu
Father Stu, Wahlberg’s character, is Stuart Long, a small-town boxer who became a priest and then fought 12 rounds with a rare and terrible degenerative illness.
He died, aged 50, almost a decade ago.
The film tells this story all the way through, presumably with some Hollywood embellishment.
I doubt, for instance, that there was a reptilian-looking bad guy at the real seminary who constantly hissed at Father Stu’s rough and rowdy ways — but there is one here.
Yet, in other places, there isn’t embellishment — or explanation — enough.
Mel Gibson stars as Bill Long, Stuart’s beer-swilling, crazy-eyed, intolerant dad who achieves late redemption
Compared with the attention paid to Father Stu’s wooing of a church-going gal (Teresa Ruiz), the film doesn’t provide much reason for his true conversion to Christianity later on.
Even his struggle with the disease, the most remarkable part of it, feels like an addendum.
Which is a shame because the actors, especially Wahlberg, have clearly approached the material earnestly. Jacki Weaver is great as Stu’s hard-loving mum.
Mel Gibson is just as good as the crazy-eyed, beer-swilling, intolerant dad who achieves a late redemption … which sounds a bit like Gibson.
In this world of second chances, maybe extend Father Stu just the one — if only to know something of the man who inspired it.
An innocent crackling with emotion
Occasionally, a first-time film comes along that feels perfectly formed — as though its creation were an act of nature.
The Quiet Girl (12A, 94 mins) is one of them. It’s the first feature for its director, Colm Bairéad, and also for its star, Catherine Clinch, a 12-year-old who delivers a performance that is stunningly mature yet still full of the innocence of childhood.
Its story, told in a mix of the Irish language (subtitled) and English, is straightforward. Clinch’s character, Cáit, is sent to live with relatives in a rural corner of Ireland for the summer, away from her careworn mother and coarse father.
But the emotions that The Quiet Girl mines are complex and deep. Through its careful camerawork and sparing script, we come to know the everyday cruelties that people can impose on each other — and the immeasurable kindnesses, too.
Catherine Clinch (pictured), who is 12, delivers a stunningly mature, yet innocent, performance in The Quiet Girl
Our Father (18, 96 mins) is a documentary that, in its way, is also about family.
Or perhaps it would better be described as a horror film. It’s produced by Blumhouse, the studio best known for spooky series such as Paranormal Activity, and is full of ominous music and creeping shots down hallways. The style certainly matches the substance: this is the case of an American fertility doctor who secretly inseminated his patients for decades.
The bravery of the sons and daughters who have exposed both him and their sprawling family tree is stunning. At the latest count, there are 94 of them.
Spitfire Over Berlin (15, 120 mins) ought to come with a disclaimer: it was made for tens of thousands of pounds by a handful of DIY filmmakers.
Without that disclaimer, it’s a clunky attempt at an airborne Second World War movie, with dodgy CGI and an even dodgier script. With it, there’s something delightful about the fact that this film even exists. Chocks away!
The Quiet Girl is showing in cinemas (and streaming on Curzon Home Cinema) from today. Our Father is on Netflix now. And Spitfire Over Berlin is in selected cinemas from today.