Kinds of Kindness film poster and movie review

Movie Reviews

Kinds of Kindness

Reviewed by:
Luke Bonanno on June 28, 2024

Theatrical Release:
June 21, 2024

Yorgos Lanthimos' new anthology is a master of cinema at the top of his game sharing some of his weirdest work yet.

Running Time164 min

RatingR

Running Time 164 min

RatingR

Yorgos Lanthimos

Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou

Emma Stone (Rita, Liz, and Emily), Jesse Plemons (Robert, Daniel, and Andrew), Willem Dafoe (Raymond, George, and Omi), Margaret Qualley (Vivian, Martha, Ruth and Rebecca), Hong Chau (Sarah, Sharon, and Aka), Joe Alwyn (Collectibles Appraiser Man 1, Jerry, and Joseph), Mamadou Athie (Will, Neil, and Morgue Nurse), Hunter Schaefer (Anna)


Kinds of Kindness (2024)

by Luke Bonanno

Just six months after giving us one of the most acclaimed and decorated films of 2023 in Poor Things, director Yorgos Lanthimos is back with Kinds of Kindness, a long anthology film made up of three sequences residing at the limits of what can be considered “shorts.” This is a master of cinema at the top of his game. It is also a weirdo sharing some of his weirdest work yet, a collection of increasingly absurd and pitch-black comic tales that will inspire outrage and disgust from many a well-mannered moviegoer.

Lanthimos, whose prior English language credits include The Favourite, The Lobster, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, does not make movies for the faint of heart or easily disturbed. Nearly a quarter-century after he began making feature films in his native Greece, Lanthimos’ taste for the dark, provocative, and unsettling is clear and unwavering. Similarly, his command of the medium, from creative camerawork to otherworldly production design, is impossible not to notice. The question is: are you comfortable enough with the filmmaker’s palette to appreciate his craft?

There’s no right or wrong answer, but enough of Lanthimos’ peers have embraced his weird worldview enough to bestow a number of honors upon his work. Those honors include a pair of Academy Award nominations for Best Director for The Favourite and Poor Things as well as Best Actress wins for their leading ladies Olivia Colman and Emma Stone. Lanthimos seems neither capable of nor interested in helming feel-good entertainment for the masses, which is just fine if his movies continue to enchant and entertain the discerning and desensitized.

Sarah (hong chau) comforts robert (jesse plemons), a businessman who loses his job and everything else in "the death of r. M. F. ", the opening sequence of yorgos lanthimos' "kinds of kindness. "

Fresh off her Oscar win, Stone is back with the director she’s now worked with more than any other. The actress is one of eight high-profile cast members here, most of whom tackle roles in all three stories.

The first segment, The Death of R.M.F., finds milquetoast businessman Robert (Jesse Plemons) objecting to one task his boss Raymond (Willem Dafoe) has assigned him as part of the exhaustive itinerary Raymond has devised for him covering literally all aspects of life, down to nutritional intake and intimacy practices. The fallout from taking a stand — Robert does not feel comfortable with killing a fellow driver as part of a staged car accident — is swift and severe. First, the recently-gifted genuine John McEnroe-smashed tennis racket disappears. Then, soon, Robert’s loving wife Sarah (Hong Chau) follows. The long-loyal employee becomes an awkward and helpless wreck. When begging Raymond for forgiveness gets him nowhere, Robert begins courting his replacement (Stone), all the while plotting to get the comforts of his old life back.

Segment two, R.M.F. is Flying, casts Plemons as a police officer named Daniel, who is already in pieces over the disappearance of his marine biologist wife Liz. Daniel’s best friends (Mamoudou Athie and Margaret Qualley) provide company and comfort, enduring his recollections and some NSFW personal videos, all the while encouraging his hope that she could still be found. And sure enough, Liz (Stone) does resurface, although Daniel is convinced that something is off about her. By the midway point of this segment, your intestinal fortitude will be tested.

The third and kookiest segment, R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich, has Plemons and Stone playing Andrew and Emily, a platonic pair of cult members spending a lot of time on the road together in an effort to find a woman who has been prophesied to raise the dead. There are a number of stipulations to the prophecy, including that the chosen one must have a dead twin. Although the cult seems pretty open-minded about some things, they do have rigid rules which become an issue after Emily begins visiting the husband (Joe Alwyn) and young daughter she has mostly abandoned. Emily’s search leads her to a veterinarian (Qualley) who nearly fits the bill. Most will find this the weirdest segment of the lot, although the second segment is a strong contender. I would imagine that both would inspire walkouts from those who have chosen to see this without doing any kind of research on what to expect.

Emma stone plays a cult member on the road in "r. M. F. Eats a sandwich", the third and final sequence of yorgos lanthimos' "kinds of kindness. "

I personally have warmed to Lanthimos a lot in the past year. While The Lobster did not fully win me over, Sacred Deer did. Then, I did not enjoy much about The Favourite, which Internet film communities embraced heartily. But then Poor Things wowed me, easily cracking my top 10 of last year and emerging as my favorite work of the director’s to date. I’ve tried to find a common thread as to my mixed reactions, but I have not succeeded. It’s not a matter of source material; all but Poor Things have been original works. It’s not a matter of the screenwriters. Tony McNamara co-wrote The Favourite with Deborah Davis and adapted Poor Things on his own. It’s not a matter of genre, with almost all of these films blurring traditional lines anyway.

My most steadfast belief as a movie watcher is that ultimately it is the story and characters by which a film fails or succeeds. I may be in the minority, but I would easily argue that it is those areas in which The Favourite most falls short. I am much more gripped and moved by the stories and characters of Lanthimos’ other films, including this fragmented yet thematically unified one, which is conceived and scripted by the director and his Lobster/Sacred Deer/Dogtooth co-scribe Efthimis Filippou.

These sharp and imaginative stories are brought to life cinematically with Lanthimos’ expected artistry. It’s neat to see him apply his flair for compositions to contemporary personalities and real-world settings. The sequences also benefit from the convictions of the game and fully committed cast. The spirited Stone, devilish Dafoe, quixotic Qualley, and adequate Alwyn have already worked with Lanthimos and familiarized themselves to the methods of the filmmaker’s madness. Plemons, Chau, and Athie have not but they all still hit the needed notes. Having honed his skills on some of the best films and perhaps the single best television series of modern times, Plemons especially dazzles here, making his recent win for Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival where this premiered a fitting honor. Kinds of Kindness is probably too dark/strange, anthological, and mistimed to compete for Oscars and other major awards six months from now. But I could see it cracking the Best Original Screenplay race, especially in a year whose output is still diluted by last year’s strikes.

Kinds of Kindness made a splashy debut last weekend in five New York and Los Angeles theaters, with its $75 thousand per theater average standing as the best of the year. I don’t think its coastal success will carry over to the rest of the country where its unsettling story elements will speak louder than its fine acting and craftmanship. But I found it all to be more rewarding and enjoyable than most of the half-year’s films, the dark wit a nice antidote to the big effects and mild humanity of the typical summer movie season. It’s slightly more compelling than Challengers, more fulfilling than Civil War, and probably more rewatchable than Dune: Part Two.

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