Kinds of Kindness (2024) Review

Kinds of Kindness (2024)
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Screenwriters: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou
Starring: Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, Mamoudou Athie, Yorgos Stefanakos

If you popped along to your local cinema to see Poor Things back in January, you may be shocked to see that Yorgos Lanthimos has yet another film releasing already, only five months later. Given its short turnaround, you may worry that his latest, Kinds of Kindness, isn’t up to scratch. But, with many of the same collaborators across both projects – such as actors Emma Stone, Margaret Qualley, and Willem Dafoe on the screen, as well as cinematographer Robbie Ryan and composer Jerskin Fendrix behind it – you will soon realise you are in safe hands.

Described as a “triptych fable,” Kinds of Kindness consists of three distinct but loosely connected stories: “The Death of R.M.F.”, “R.M.F. Is Flying”, and “R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich”. Can you guess what the connection is? With a rotating cast that is intertwined throughout all three stories, Lanthimos creates an uncanny valley feeling across all three segments. And, with each narrative inspired by the most dystopian of George Orwell’s stories, the weirdest works of Franz Kafka, and the most terrifying tales from Stephen King, it is clear that Lanthimos is back to freak out and disturb like he always has.

With a filmmaker like Yorgos Lanthimos, it is difficult to consider any of his films “normal” or, even, “more normal” than any of his other films. The director specialises in making the weirdest and wildest films of modern times and, in large part, this is the key to his success. However, as indescribable as it may be, there is a very clear difference between films like Dogtooth and The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Yorgos’ more popular works The Favourite and Poor Things. Thankfully, with Kinds of Kindness, the director is simultaneously returning to his roots all the while keeping to his more contemporary style.

This transition is helped in part by frequent Lanthimos collaborator Efthimis Filippou returning to co-write the screenplay. Having previously worked on past projects Dogtooth, Alps, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, it is safe to say that Filippou has a knack for the outlandish. With stories of sex cults, necromancy, and cannibalism, the pair have crafted something special that is sure to make you squirm. Just as Poor Things was too explicit for some, or The Favourite was too weird for others, Kinds of Kindness will be considered to be too much by a portion of its audience. That is not to indicate that Lanthimos uses the more gory, strange or quirky elements of his latest movie badly, however.

With very little connection between the three fables, we find ourselves combing through every little detail, whatever clues are left on screen for us to make some sense of this world. Before even discovering the genuine thread that ties these characters together, it becomes clear that the name itself is the most major clue there could be. Just as we watch these characters live their lives down to the most minute detail to please their boss, or cut off a limb to please a partner, we come to understand the types of kindness we see on screen. We see a severe lack of love and kindness from some characters, while others transform themselves (figuratively and literally) in an attempt to please those around them. 

It is not the violence or the offbeat nature of the screenplay that makes your stomach churn. Instead, it is the reasoning behind these actions. It is a deep down, tragic desire from the characters to be liked, or to be accepted, that strikes us on an emotional level, because we know that we have all been there in one way or another. All Filippou and Lanthimos have done is dial it up to ten.

Filippou is not the only returning collaborator, of course. It is, in fact, much of the cast, many of whom have returned to work with the great director once again, that truly elevate the material to something great. Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, and Mamoudou Athie all kill it as the revolving door of background characters, but it is Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, and Willem Dafoe that really deliver. 

Directing things with his usual blunt sensibility, the cast all offer the typical inhuman performances that Yorgos loves to capture. Unceremoniously making their way through their individual stories, the lead cast reacts to every situation with such an absurd dullness that you can truly believe the world they are living in is not in fact strange or alien but is real and genuine. Lending believability through their bland ponderings on the most preposterous interactions, Plemons, Stone, and co., deliver some of the most unique performances of their careers. 

Admittedly, Emma Stone does seem to be getting the short end of the stick. Though she has perhaps the most iconic scene in the entire film – her heavily advertised dance – her only story as the certified lead is perhaps the weakest, though it isn’t exactly part of a bad bunch.

As is typical of a Yorgos Lanthimos film, the director brings it all together as only he can. He structures the three stories out of order but tells them all in such a way that it allows for maximum intrigue and the ultimate payoff by the time the credits roll. He stewards these marvellous performances, and the film’s wicked script, and blends them together with some fish-eye lenses, and another distinctively eccentric score from Jerskin Fendrix, to create one of the best films of his career. 

With Kinds of Kindness, Yorgos Lanthimos returns with a deliciously fucked up piece of cinema. With an incredible cast and three thrilling cautionary tales focusing on the dangers of people pleasing, this is a Lanthimos offering that is not to be missed.

Score: 21/24

Rating: 4 out of 5.


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