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Kinds of Kindness

Guest writer Austin Webster says Yorgos Lanthimos' latest is a strong showcase of his trademark sensibilities, and that's precisely why it isn't for everyone.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Yorgos Lanthimos has always been an eclectic filmmaker, whose films could fall anywhere on the spectrum of “weird.” Ultra wide-angle lenses, taboo subject matter, dry performances, and all-star casts committing to outrageous ideas. He’s for the sickos.

Knowing that this was shot in a short amount of time during the post-production of Poor Things, I went in expecting a scrappier, smaller-scale project. I was intrigued that the cast retained Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, and Margaret Qualley, and added Jesse Plemons. My interest was then further piqued when I found out it was an anthology film. I love anthologies, and I was very curious to see what Lanthimos would do with shorter-format stories.

Typically, the stories in an anthology are connected by similar themes, setting, or unifying characters. The three stories that make up Kinds of Kindness are connected very loosley through a single secondary character named R.M.F. (played by Yorgos Stefanakos), and by a cast comprised of Plemons, Stone, Dafoe, Qualley, Hong Chau, and Joe Alwyn.

The whole ensemble is fantastic, though Plemons easily stands out, having the most screen time of anyone. Chau was another standout for me, and I hope that her appearance in this, as well as 2022’s The Whale, means we get to see more of her.

The title still puzzles me. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but I concluded that it was trying to intertwine the three main characters’ flaws. Every story follows someone who has had their naïveté and kindness exploited in one way or another: fulfilling a personal debt to someone, having an unconditional love for your partner, and believing in a higher power. I’m not claiming to have the definitive interpretation of these stories, but reading them from this angle made the film more interesting.

Each of the three stories are nearly an hour long—not what I would quite describe as “short format” so much as overlong short films. The anthology kicks off with its strongest story and proceeds in descending order. I didn’t feel like the second or third stories were bad, necessarily, but the final one in particular made for a finish that was weaker than the start. The final short did get the biggest laugh out of me at the very end, however, so I’ll give it that.

Oh, yeah. This film is funny.

Well, to the right person, it’s funny. I just happen to be that right person.

I laughed through the entire film, enjoying its quirkiness and deep-dark sense of humor. That said, I can understand why someone would be put off by it. I don’t think there’s anything especially egregious here, given Lanthimos’ track record, but again: I’m one of the sickos.

Editor’s representation of the author, a sicko.

Visually, this film isn’t as impressive or strikingly bizarre as Poor Things or The Favourite, and it has a more grounded look to it like The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Lanthimos still utilizes his signature ultra-wide lens choices and unconventional framing, but this is possibly his most “normal-looking” film. And it works. The main characters are relatively normal people, living seemingly normal lives, until the strangeness starts to peek through in the action and performances.

Retrospectively, my only real complaint about Kinds of Kindness is that it could have left more on the cutting room floor. 2 hours and 45 minutes is long for only three stories, but despite the feeling that it was bloated, I didn’t mind the runtime. Lanthimos made a comedy that is grounded in reality in order elevate its moments of surreality, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. If this is what he’s capable of making amidst the post-production process of an Academy Award-winner, then I am very excited to see what he does next with even more preparation and focus. 

Austin Webster

Austin is an Indianapolis-based filmmaker who works primarily in the camera department as a camera operator and focus puller. His favorite movie is Drive My Carand his favorite cinematographer is Greig Fraser.

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