Kinds of Kindness

Kinds of Kindness
Kinds of Kindness
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With such a grand detour as Poor Things and The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos goes back to his harsh and cynical self in Kinds of Kindness. Three separate yet thematically connected stories led by Emma Stone and Jesse Plemmons make the film brim with the director’s razor-edged malice of Dogtooth days, epitomizing to say the least, violent absurdism that birthed Lanthimos and “Greek Weird Wave” phenomena. Kinds of Kindness is an evil trick from this Hollywood success story. However, Lanthimos’ latest is nothing like those stunningly dark comedies which made him an Oscar favorite: a series of macabre satires about love, obsession and control are full of dirtiness, blood and dryness.

In the first story Robert (Plemmons) plays a subservient office worker whose boss Raymond (Dafoe) literally orders around every aspect of his life — food habits included. Raymond’s odd gifts are followed by even stranger requests which are likely to harm Robert himself and cause others’ deaths but given Robert’s almost romantic devotion for his boss these actions can be seen as a morally ambiguous path.

Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, Joe Alwyn also have minor roles in this dark fable about male expectations which brings Lanthimos several years backwards in terms of tone while pushing forward his visual style as well. It seems like similar to The Killing of a Sacred Deer not only plot-wise but acting-wise with Plemmons restraining any form of ostentatiousness or subtlety. His unnatural halting line delivery makes him focus on only what he needs to achieve in each scene; it accentuates how desperate Robert becomes when there is need for appeasement. This rehashed style we’ve all come to expect from Lanthimos should be credited mainly to Robbie Ryan who shoots New Orleans as if it were Los Angeles in Punch-Drunk Love and Licorice Pizza: sweaty nights, colors that stung the eyes, streetlight lens flares.

The visual vibrancy contrasting with the characters’ icy manipulativeness is especially concentrated in the second story where Plemmons acts as a policeman Daniel whose wife Liz (Stone) disappeared while sailing and whose face he sees on petty criminals. Also from the first fable Plemmons sympathy arousing, puppy dog like sorrow continues but once Liz is saved Daniel’s confusion over her homecoming takes him into the bizarre realm of loyalty tests through self-mutilation. (In fact, this “kindness” changed from its original title SEO-unfriendly “And” reminds me of twisted resurrections or “kindnesses”).

This metaphor is quite explicit: it is a tale about human change as a result of harsh circumstances leading to cracks in relationships — which can be monotonously nihilistic. However, they are totally unexpected because of their extremely painful nature. Meanwhile Fendrix’s Jerskin off-beat score across all three stories consisting of high-pitched piano keys playing out of tune and loud sound bites sung in one syllable words makes even what would have been shocking moments appear trance-like when on screen.

Each lead in these stories is driven by some kind of obsession: In the third and longest installment of Kinds of Kindness, Stone appears as a woman who has abandoned her families for a frightful religious engagement. There are times when black-and-white dreams or visions reiterate how much the characters’ wishes are rooted into their minds. Moreover, the incredible foolishness of each story provides great opportunities to act for all performers. That’s why they can say that out loud with so much seriousness that it may seem like a perfectly performed joke. Sometimes Lanthimos would also capture remarkable scenes of gentle, non-sexual nudity (including trans nudity) that seems to have come from intense communal trust. It is not proper for such an intricately balanced film to include this kind of fourth wall breaking; however, this metatextual wink provides us with insight about the whole series.

Such quirks are no mere background detail in in Lanthimos’ films – they’re defining characteristics. The drama unfolds and deepens as he gradually raises the bar labeled ‘weirdness,’ driving his characters on an almost imperceptible path to insanity but always tied back to regretfulness. Meanwhile, he must have truly enjoyed himself throughout because this film demonstrates such a strong desire to be misanthropic as well as gallows humor allowing its actors appear just full till bursting point waiting for your emotions’ last scoring moment within each episode’s ending. They really seemed like they were having lots fun while being on Lanthimos’ sandbox for two hours and forty five minutes resulting into cursed vibes which might captivate any audience member who comes close enough.


Yorgos Lanthimos returns to his days of nasty absurdism, with three vicious, amusing stories about love and obsession. Emma Stone and Jesse Plemmons lead an ensemble cast that showcase versatility as they get into the mind-space of director which gets them through nearly 3 hours of disturbing fun.

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