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Yorgos Lanthimos Kinds of Kindness Review


Kinds of Kindness | Review

Kinds of Kindness | Review

Bounds of Boundaries: Lanthimos Entertains Himself with Bizarre Triptych

Yorgos Lanthimos Kinds of Kindness ReviewIt’s safe to say Yorgos Lanthimos has undoubtedly entered the oblivious, self-indulgent era of his career with his latest, Kinds of Kindness, recycling a large number of his Poor Things (2023) cast for a triptych which features plenty of offbeat characteristics. Unfortunately, it’s a film which feels equivalent to being held captive to the drunken ramblings of an attention hungry child king no one has the authority to quell. Less esoteric or provocative than it is superficially outlandish, it’s a bit of a disappointment from the godfather of the Greek Weird Wave whose previous handful of English language peculiarities tend to at least incite rather than shut down conversation. Beautifully shot by Robbie Ryan and showcasing a handful of actors who have now become shorthand extensions for the director’s unique approach, there are definitely highlights peppered throughout this anthology worth seeing. But overall it plays like a tumescent, vacuous rambling, as if Allen Ginsburg had hallucinated himself into The Twilight Zone and could not, would not, stop talking.

The title of each three segments refers to a minor character popping up across the lexicon known by the initial R.M.F. The first hinges on a wheedling man named Robert (Jesse Plemons), employed by a nebulous corporate oligarch named Raymond (Willem Dafoe). It appears Raymond controls his employees like he has his own private Stepford, giving them lavish gifts and fantastic lifestyles in exchange for complete control of their days, dictated to them through handwritten note cards with dominatrix tendencies. It just so happens Robert has declined to go through with his latest task, a high speed crash with R.M.F. which would likely kill the man. His refusal causes an immediate dissolution of his marriage to Sarah (Hong Chau), whose pregnancies have been routinely aborted by doctors at the behest of Raymond. The rest of the segment features Raymond trying to do whatever he can to get back into his employer’s good graces, exacerbated by his courting of a woman named Rita (Emma Stone), who has become his replacement in this collision task.

Next, Daniel (Plemons) is a cop whose wife Liz (Stone) has gone missing on a scientific expedition. His partner (Mamoudou Athie) is his best friend tasked with keeping him mentally on track, but it appears he and his own wife Martha (Margaret Qualley) have embarked on a swinging relationship with the couple, which complicates this scenario. Liz is suddenly located, and along with one other survivor (who is married to Hong Chau) are the sole survivors, it’s implied, by eating the corpse of the one crew member authorities cannot locate. But Liz doesn’t seem to be herself, having developed new fixations on foods she previously detested, while none of her shoes seems to fit. Daniel develops a paranoid fixation, and his demands on Liz ultimately become detrimental to her health.

Yorgos Lanthimos Kinds of Kindness Review

Lastly, and perhaps most strangely, Emily (Stone) and Andrew (Plemons) are employees and members of a bizarre cult led by Omi (Dafoe) and Aka (Chau). They are on the hunt to satisfy some vague prophet about a woman with a dead twin who has the power to revive the dead. Their initial interview with Anna (Hunter Schafer) proves to be a false lead. But Emily has dreamt about a woman (Margaret Qualley) in a synchronized swimming themed nightmare which she knows to be the key to their quest. However, this is complicated when Emily is ‘tainted’ by her husband (Joe Alwyn, also appearing in all three segments). He date rapes his wife as a means to get alone time with her, and this does not appease Omi and Aka. Left to her own devices, Emily tracks down the woman in her dreams, who proves to be the one sought by the cult. But transporting her to their home base proves to be difficult.

Lanthimos opens Kinds of Kindness blasting The Eurythmics, but, unfortunately, sweet dreams aren’t made of these three episodes which feel mashed together like they were intended to be the director’s attempt at a Black Mirror type miniseries. Co-written by his usual scribe Efthimis Filippou, their signature deadpan dialogue quickly feels taxing, and with a running time of nearly three hours, such an impenetrable fortress of lackadaisical interconnectedness feels wearying, like a precocious child demanding you watch them as they jump up and down on a trampoline while reciting Hamlet.

Dafoe earns a few smirks, while Plemons has an impressive ability to transform across all three periods, sometimes appearing boyish in one moment and, in the next, looking like Wendell Corey. Lanthimos’ new muse Emma Stone throws herself into the film’s sense of kinky abandon with aplomb, though she’s perhaps best served in the third chapter, given a harsh makeover which recalls a young Judy Davis. A through line across all three segments relates to boundaries being endlessly transgressed and habits being formed to satisfy an ever increasing tolerance towards its achievement. What an amazing film Kinds of Kindness could have been had it also had something to say.

Reviewed on May 17th at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival – Competition. 165 Mins


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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