KINDS OF KINDNESS

May 17, 2024

kinds of kindness, cannes dispatch, emma stone

Words by JANE CROWTHER


Yorgos Lanthimos re-teams with his favourites (Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Joe Alwyn) and returns to the nihilist roots of Dogtooth in a bold, challenging triptych of tales that, in opposition to the title, explores the weird cruelties of humans. Each story is 45 minutes long and reconfigures his cast to different characters; in the first, ‘The Death Of RMF’, Robert (new collaborator Jesse Plemons), an executive, adheres to the specific rules of his boss (Dafoe), in living his life with his wife (Hong Chau). With every aspect of his existence determined – from how he dresses and eats to whether he has children and demands that he crash his car – Robert decides to flex his own autonomy and runs into a stranger (Stone). In the second, ‘RMF Is Flying’, a cop (Plemons) mourns his MIA wife (Stone) who disappeared on a boating trip with the comfort of friends (Margaret Qualley and Mamadou Athie) but questions whether she’s truly his spouse when she reappears. And in the third, ‘RMF Eats A Sandwich’, Stone and Plemons play the acolytes of a cult led by Dafoe’s sexually liberated lachrymose leader as they search for an individual who is destined to be the group’s messiah and bring people back from the dead.

Aside from repeated casts, there’s little to link the fables apart from a darkly humorous tone, plot points that show self-harm, control within relationships and a bleak outlook on the obsessions of humanity. Lanthimos invited audiences to find common threads themselves, taking reactions and feelings from one tale into the watching of another. It’s willfully and entirely subjective what each audience member may take from the process.

With a fully committed cast leaning into their roles and unafraid to court dislike (Stone, in particular is all guns blazing complicated in all her different guises), Lanthimos and his co-writer Efthimis Filippou scratch at the unpleasant and uncomfortable elements of relationships (romantic and otherwise) and society, making for some wince-inducing moments as characters make unreasonable demands on each other.

Like all of Lanthimos’ work, it defies easy categorisation or interpretation but fans of the more linear Poor Things may find Kinds Of Kindness a bewildering ride. Avant-garde, uncompromising and proudly opaque, it’s the sort of big-swing cinema that challenges audiences, is entirely unique and will provide much to discuss once the lights go up.

kinds of kindness, cannes dispatch, emma stone

Yorgos Lanthimos’s Kinds of Kindness staring Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe and Jesse Plemons is screening at the 77th Cannes Film Festival and will release in cinemas 28 June

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