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Kinds of Kindness

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
SFF 2024 - Kinds of Kindness
Photograph: Supplied/SFF | 'Kinds of Kindness'

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone reunite for spiky, darkly funny anti-crowdpleaser

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos follows the baroque, Oscar-winning historical antics of Poor Things and The Favourite with this sombre, darker, but no less odd triptych of stories shot in and around modern-day New Orleans. 

Fast becoming a fixture in Lanthimos’s troupe, Emma Stone rejoins him for the ride, as does Poor Things’s Willem Dafoe, alongside Jesse Plemons, Margaret Qualley, Joe Alwyn, The Whale’s Hong Chau and others, forming a repertory cast that rotates around three tales. Each vignette is distinct but has one minor character in common: a silent, bearded man called ‘RMF’. Also uniting them is a pristine, glacial visual style and an unnervingly sharp piano score with choral outbursts that colour the mood.

No surprise for long-time Yorgos fans, the tales are grim: a businessman (Plemons) lives a personal and professional life entirely under the grip of his boss (Defoe), down to the juice he drinks each morning and the exact time he has sex with his wife; a woman (Stone) returns from an accident at sea but her husband (Plemons) doesn’t believe she’s the same person and forces her to commit unspeakable acts on her body; a wife and mother (Stone) has abandoned her husband and child for a cult leader (Dafoe) who believes a young woman (Qualley) has powers to raise the dead.

The deadpan absurdity and black comic tone recalls Dogtooth and Alps

Control is Lanthimos’s obsession, and extreme possession of other people’s lives runs through these tales just as much as extreme possession of storytelling runs through Lanthimos’s work. His grip on us is tight, and it can feel as suffocating as it can feel challenging and inspired. The deadpan absurdity and quietly black comic tone of Kinds of Kindness recalls Lanthimos’s earlier films, Dogtooth, Alps, The Lobster and The Killing of the Sacred Deer – unsurprisingly perhaps as he’s back working with their writer, Efthimis Filippou, making this something of a re-intro to his work for those who joined the party more recently. As in those earlier films, the overbearing feeling is of watching humans as playthings for a sick puppeteer’s increasingly sadistic ideas. 

That’s not a dig; that’s Lanthimos’s thing, and how much you naturally warm (or, more appropriately, chill) to it will determine your appetite for this project, which feels like an interim palate cleanser and one for the real fans. Some who found his last two films an eccentric romp might end up feeling like some of the unfortunate folk in this – bruised, battered and stuck – but anyone who shares Lanthimos’s pleasure at swatting his humans like flies will surely extract wry pleasure from it.

Kinds of Kindness premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

Dave Calhoun
Written by
Dave Calhoun

Cast and crew

  • Director:Yorgos Lanthimos
  • Screenwriter:Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou
  • Cast:
    • Emma Stone
    • Willem Dafoe
    • Margaret Qualley
    • Hong Chau
    • Jesse Plemons
    • Mamoudou Athie
    • Hunter Schafer
    • Joe Alwyn
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