Kinds of Kindness

A return to form for Yorgos Lanthimos.

Jun 28, 2024
Dimitris Passas

From the pioneer of the deadpan and unsettling Yorgos Lanthimos, comes Kinds of Kindness, a portmanteau film comprising 3 distinctive storylines merged by their commonalities in terms of theme selection. Efthimis Filippou signs the screenplay in his fifth collaboration with the Greek auteur, which signals a regression to Lanthimos's early years and works such as Dogtooth and Alps. After his smashing success with Poor Things last year, Lanthimos mingles once again with Filippou to deliver a quietly disturbing movie exploring existential angst in the context of the modern human condition. - In Lanthimos's works, the allegorical is knitted with the sarcastic and the characters experience nihilistic dread as absence, a vacuum eating them from the inside. It is that void that propels the story forward and that's what happens in the case of the director's latest feat. Malice and nastiness command the screen, sometimes in softer versions, others much harder, as the stories develop in a time span that could be a tad longer. In the end, it feels like each one of the 3 sub-stories could benefit from a larger space that would allow them to breathe and develop more plausibly if plausibly is a word that can be used when talking about Lanthimos oeuvre. - A middle-aged man, Robert (Jesse Plemons) lives his life by proxy as he takes orders from an obscure domineering figure, Raymond, played to perfection by Willem Dafoe, who seems to control even the tiniest aspects of his employee's circadian rhythm. He forces him to have sex at regular intervals, forbids him from having kids with his wife, and even dictates what he reads and when. And as it seems that the time has come for the oppressed to claim his freedom things take a bizarre turn, consistent with Lanthimos' radical approach to storytelling. In the second segment, Liz (Emma Stone), vanishes from the face of the earth after a nautical accident during a research trip. When she returns to her home, her husband Daniel (J. Plemons) suspects that she is an impostor and he is prepared to go a long way in order to prove it. The last slice of this morbid anthology finds Emma Stone in the role of a cult member, Emily, who is eager to locate a woman who is allegedly capable of bringing the dead back to life. - More than an absurdist paradox, Kinds of Kindness is a study on apathy that imbues human life with a particular type of inertia that constitutes the root of evil. In Lanthimos's universe, things sometimes move in an urgent pace, others in soporific. The audience watches the developments on screen as if in a nightmarish trance, always expecting the unexpected but never quite hitting the mark. This is a film about subjugation, people forcing their will on others who become willing puppets, craving tyranny rather than resenting it. The protagonists are desperate for approval even if it comes from those who oppress them in the meanest of ways. - Kinds of Kindness features a stellar cast with the elf-like Emma Stone delivering a triple tour de force performance, her acting dexterities shining on celluloid brighter than ever. Dafoe is always a solid choice when it comes to incarnating fiendish characters and he is at his best in the first story where he comes across as despicable as the hand grabbing a child's last wish. Plemons is brilliant too, though his performance is outweighed by Stone's radiance that enchants even the most demanding members of the audience. The cinematographer, Robbie Ryan, who has previously worked with Lanthimos in The Favorite and Poor Things offers a masterclass on how to properly light a scene in order to create a visual atmosphere that stands in harmony with the movie's mood and tone. The musical score by Jerkin Fendrix adds to the pervading sense of dissonance with its abrupt sharpness. - The production qualities are top-notch, worthy of Lanthimos's current standing as one of the most innovative directors currently working in the industry. While Kinds of Kindness is Filippou's most accessible work to date, those not familiar with the Greek screenwriter's perspective will experience feelings of shock as there are more than a few trademark explosions of senseless, bizarre violence that seal the second story's finale. - The screenplay also contains some unforeseen twists that enhance the level of the overarching story's intrigue. This is a wholly different sort of movie and there can be no comparison with the more straightforward recent works by Lanthimos. It is a deep dive into the abysmal depths of human cynicism and rancor, so be prepared. Brace yourselves for one more rough ride by the extraordinary duo of Lanthimos/Filippou.

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