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June 28, 2024 / Searchlight Pictures

Starring: Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, Joe Alwyn, Mamoudou Athie, Hunter Schafer

Directed By: Yorgos Lanthimos

A triptych fable following a man without choice who tries to take control of his own life; a policeman who is alarmed that his wife who was missing-at-sea has returned and seems a different person; and a woman determined to find a specific someone with a special ability, who is destined to become a prodigious spiritual leader.

Written By Darren Zakus - July 2, 2024

Rating 3 out of 5

Kinds of Kindness is a truly unique film experience that features a strong ensemble cast led by the ever-talented Emma Stone and Jesse Plemons, unleashing a twisted tour de force that only Yorgos Lanthimos can dream up that is going to leave audiences uncomfortable and divided in opinion in all the right ways.

Weird Yorgos is back! After delivering two Academy Award winning period pieces that we’re definitely out there but mainstream enough to take Academy members by storm with to The Favorite and Poor Things, Yorgos Lanthimos is back to his weirder and darker roots with his latest film Kinds of Kindness, this time armed with an all-star cast of many of his past actors. Coming out quickly after the success of Poor Things, this feels like the film that the studio let Lanthimos make after showing them Poor Things and knowing that it would earn them Oscars, as Kinds of Kindness is such a strange collection of stories that are not for your average movie goer. Even though this film was not entirely for me, I can’t help but respect Lanthimos' dark sense of humour and artistic freedom he unleashes in the film, which when combined with exceptional performances across the board, results in one of the most peculiar films you will experience this summer.

The film is comprised of three shorter stories, each clocking in at a runtime just under an hour each, and while there are similarities in the themes contained within them, they are otherwise standalone. Getting progressively weirder and more twisted as you move through the stories, the tales Lanthimos tells call back to his earlier works such as Dogtooth, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Full of sex, cults, his signature somewhat stilted yet engaging dialogue, and some truly disturbing images that will make you wince, it’s one of the strangest films you will most likely witness on the big screen this year that will have you simultaneously feeling uncomfortable and chucking at that dark absurdity of Lanthimos’ creative genius at play. Personally, my favourite of the three stories was “R.M.F. is Flying” as it had the perfect combination of dark humour, disturbing ideas and enough mystery to fully sustain my attention over its entire run time.

With such a talented cast, it truly is no surprise that performances on Kinds of Kindness are outstanding. Jesse Plemons gives a truly excellent performance in his various roles, shining in the first two stories as he balances the precarious situations his character finds himself in with the internal breakdown caused by them. Emma Stone, as always, is nothing short of extraordinary, once again reveling in the twisted comedic genius of Lanthimos. Needless to say, knowing that Stone, Plemons and Lanthimos have already set their next film together, easily makes Bugonia one film I know I won’t be missing next year. Hong Chau continues to be a force to be reckoned with, bringing a compassion and offbeat hilarity to her characters, while Willem Dafoe does what he does best: playing in the moral gray area as some rather unsavory characters. Margaret Qualley continues to push the boundaries of her talent with a great performance in all three stories, while Mamoudou Athie, Joe Alwyn and Hunter Schafer are all perfectly cast. Needless to say, but Kinds of Kindness has one of the strongest ensemble casts of the year so far who effortlessly bring to life Lanthimos’s wild and dark vision with a biting comedic energy.

As strange as his films are, Lanthimos always matches his story with strong production value. While set in modern day America, Lanthimos captures an extravagance when called for with fashionable costumes and opulent sets, and more commonplace locations and everyday clothing when dealing with characters that are your everyday Americans. The colour palette is carefully selected, containing colour but in a muted fashion to match the dark tone of the film. And Jerskin Fendrix’s musical score is the cherry on top, using choral arrangements to truly set the audience on edge during the film’s more intense and unsettling moments. Plus, the needle drops including Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams” help to energize the entire film with a polarizing upbeat rhythm pit against the more sinister worlds that these stories occur in and the slower, insidious manner in which they play out. It all works together to ensure that Lanthimos’ stories Will simultaneously get under your skin while ensuring uncomfortable laughter throughout.

At this point in his career, I’m game for anything that Yorgos Lanthimos is in the director’s chair for, especially if it is starring his muse Emma Stone. You always know that you’re in for a stranger film that will instantly get under your film, shock, and even spur some moments of great humour that you feel guilty at laughing at, and that is exactly what he has done with each of the three stories in Kinds of Kindness. Led by two stellar performances from Emma Stone and Jesse Plemons, Kinds of Kindness is a true artistic statement from Yorgos Lanthimos that is full of his signature peculiarities that make his films such a fascinating and divisive viewing experience, that although I did not love it as much as some of his previous films, it is one film that I can’t help to respect for its bizarreness.

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