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Kinds of Kindness (2024)

Kinds of Kindness (2024)

Yorgos Lanthimos
Comedy | Drama
Ireland | UK | Greece
2h 44m
Emma Stone | Jesse Plemons | Willem Dafoe

Awards & Festivals:

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“Hollywood’s Weird Wave” is loading…

We judged Lanthimos too early, at least I did. The director, who transferred to Hollywood with The Favourite, had compromised his unique style considerably; with Poor Things, it seemed almost completely lost. In his third film with producer Searchlight, Kinds of Kindness, while we can’t say he has fully returned to his original style, we can at least see that it still carries his signature, albeit in a somewhat “tampered with” manner.

The film is presented in a triptych structure, with three parts that are unrelated to each other (except for the actors). All three sections revolve around the character R.M.F., played in different roles by Yorgos Stefanakos. In the first part, “The Death of R.M.F.,” Willem Dafoe appears in another god-like role after Poor Things, as Raymond, the boss who has controlled R.M.F.’s will for ten years. R.M.F. has completely lost control of his own life; so much so that from the moment he first refuses a request from his boss, his life is turned upside down – he’s lost his will to the point where he can’t even decide on a drink at the bar. He tries to rebuild his life on his own, but just as he seems to be succeeding, he finds himself back in Raymond’s arms.

After a first part that seems to have been made to please the producer, with a few small exceptions, the second part feels almost like The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer; I later learn that Lanthimos has started working again with Efthymis Filippou, the screenwriter of those two films. In this section, while not all of the director’s early signatures are as clear, Lanthimos still manages to create his own unique Hollywood Weird Wave. The segment revolves around R.M.F. as a police officer experiencing a bizarre process after his wife, who was lost in a maritime accident, returns.

The last part focuses on a woman who abandons her family for a mysterious cult and her journey to find the “savior.” Though not as provocative as the second part, it remains daring, bold, and weird, with Lanthimos continuing to make his presence felt.

While not similar in terms of story, this three-part dystopia shares some aspects. Accompanied by “Sweet Dreams” (Eurythmics), themes of dreams and will are explored in all three parts; how much control do we really have over our lives, and how do the consequences of our decisions affect us? Additionally, the technical touches act as bridges between the segments, with the hysterical strikes of the piano cutting the audience with small scrapes each time. Lanthimos has used low-angle shots frequently in this film, but not in the traditional sense of “elevating” his character; R.M.F. never quite reaches those levels in any of the parts, which piqued my curiosity.

It seems Lanthimos has returned to his roots in terms of directing actors; the actors perform their roles with the same weirdness, yet still naturally. They do this with such sensitivity that the audience doesn’t even realize they’re playing different roles in the three short parts; for instance, you don’t find it odd that Jesse Plemons’ R.M.F. is first a businessman, then an ordinary cop, and finally a character who cedes the lead role to Emma Stone.

Although I still find it strange to see Lanthimos’ name under the bright Hollywood sign even after three films, I still love the possibility that he might be preserving his style. I hope one day he wakes up from his “Sweet Dreams” and makes another film like Dogtooth.

Kinds of Kindness premiered at Cannes on May 17.

Nil Birinci

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