by Anthony O'Connor

Year:  2024

Director:  Yorgos Lanthimos

Rated:  MA

Release:  11 July 2024

Distributor: Disney

Running time: 164 minutes

Worth: $12.50
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Jesse Plemons, Emma Stone, Margaret Qualley, Willem Dafoe, Hong Chau, Joe Alwyn, Mamoudou Athie, Hunter Schafer

… other than some wry moments and pretty images, and it leaves the experience feeling ultimately unsatisfying, hollow and indulgent.

There’s always a danger when an arthouse film director finds more mainstream acceptance that they’ll veer into unchecked self-indulgence. Or, to put it more bluntly, that they’ll vanish up their own clacker. Case in point, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos and his latest flick Kinds of Kindness.

Lanthimos used to be a bit of an indie darling with the likes of 2009’s Dogtooth. However, in 2015 he found a much wider audience with the darkly poetic The Lobster and its follow up, 2017’s Killing of a Sacred Deer. In 2018, Yorgos went dead-set mainstream with The Favourite, starring Olivia Colman and Emma Stone, a fantastic film that was deservedly showered with accolades and awards. And just last year we had Poor Things, a surreal, sexually explicit fairytale with a lot to say about the human condition.

And now we have Kinds of Kindness. Oh well. Every winning streak comes to an end eventually.

Kinds of Kindness describes itself as a “triptych fable”, which basically means it’s three short(ish) stories that reuses the same cast of Jesse Plemons, Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley and a few others, all uniformly excellent.

The first story, “The Death of R.M.F” is probably the best, telling a tale of modern obsession as Robert (Plemons) obeys every command given to him by his controlling boss, Raymond (Willem Dafoe). It’s a nasty little yarn, but well observed and pithy.

The second tale, “R.M.F. is Flying” is the story of missing wife, Liz (Stone) whose husband (Plemons) begins to suspect that she isn’t who she claims to be. Not much happens and the ending is unsatisfying.

The final tale, “R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich” is an initially intriguing story of a bizarre cult in search of their chosen one, and the lengths they’ll go to in order achieve their goal. Sadly, it doesn’t really stick the landing, despite being beautifully directed and superbly acted.

In fact, that’s an ongoing theme for Kinds of Kindness: amazing cast, stellar direction, wonky stories. Perhaps it’s the fact that telling these smaller fables requires a surplus of set up and table setting, or the rather obnoxious 164 minute runtime, but what should be brisk and engaging ends up dragging on and feeling exhausting rather than exhilarating.

There’s still a lot here to enjoy, mind you. The biting wit and absurdist humour that has become a staple of Lanthimos’ work shines on occasion and watching Plemons and Stone showcase their wide range is a pleasure. However, there’s nothing much at the core of Kindness, other than some wry moments and pretty images, and it leaves the experience feeling ultimately unsatisfying, hollow and indulgent.


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