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  • Writer's pictureRua Fay

The Perplexing Nature of "Kinds of Kindness"

[This review does not contain spoilers]

On March 17th, Yorgos Lanthimos released the trailer for his next film, Kinds of Kindness much to the surprise of film bros everywhere. Considering that Lanthimos had just released his smash hit, Poor Things only a few months prior, the news of another film came as a shock to a lot of people, myself included. This year I was fortunate enough to attend the 77th Cannes Film Festival, where the film premiered on May 17th. It was one of the most anticipated films of the entire festival, and the one I found myself wanting to see the most. I finally managed to score a last minute rush ticket on the last day of the festival. I was ecstatic to see the new film by my favorite living director, but what I actually thought of the film is a different story entirely...

Kinds of Kindness is described as an "absurdist black comedy anthology." The film consists of three stories, each with their own unique characters, all played by the same central cast. It's a truly star-studded film, boasting a cast of actors like Willem Dafoe, Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, Hunter Schafer, Margaret Qualley, Mamoudou Athie, Hong Chau, and Joe Alwyn, and newcomer Krystal Alayne Chambers. Yorgos Lanthimos wrote the film with his longtime collaborator, Efthimis Fillipou, making it his first original film since 2017's The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

Fans were left surprised after first hearing about Kinds of Kindness' release date considering how soon it was released after Poor Things, leading some to think that production was rushed, but that's simply not the case. Principal photography began in October of 2022 in New Orleans, and ended that following December. However, the release date is far from the strangest thing about the film.

Kinds of Kindness is a deeply bizarre film that can be quite hard to understand, and despite it being so highly anticipated, Kinds of Kindness has proved to be quite divisive. It currently holds a score of 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, making it Lanthimos' lowest rated project since his debut feature Kinetta from 2005. That being said, it also won the "Best Actor" award for Jesse Plemons' performance at the Cannes Film Festival, and for a while, a lot of people thought it was going to take home the Palm d'Or, which eventually went to Sean Baker's Anora. I wanted nothing more than to see Kinds of Kindness in Cannes, but every catch-up screening I could find was full within a matter of seconds, it wasn't until the last day that I managed to score a ticket. So there I sat, in the historic Agnés Varda Theatre, watching the lights dim and the title card flash on screen, eagerly awaiting what was to come.

To put it briefly and bluntly, I did not enjoy Kinds of Kindness as much as I hoped I would. I enjoyed the experience way more than the film itself, as in getting to see a new film at Cannes, waiting anxiously in line, and being one of the first in the world to watch a new film with friends. One of the movie's glaring flaws lies in its monstrous runtime of nearly three hours, which makes the film feel like it is overstaying its welcome. It feels less like 1 long movie and more like three short ones, and I firmly believe that Kinds of Kindness would have been a stronger film if it stuck to one of the three stories, specifically the first or third one. None of the vignettes last long enough for you to really get attached to any of the characters or care about their motives.

The first story centers around a man trying to take control of his own life after quitting his powerful, unexplained, yet very powerful job. The second story is about another man who becomes suspicious that his wife is an imposter, and the third is about a cultist in search of a messiah with resurrection powers. I have a very hard time relating the three vignettes together, not just in terms of content, but themes. Before December 2023, the official title of the film was And, which makes sense because nothing in this movie has anything to do with kindness or its various forms.

Yorgos Lanthimos tends to write characters that are eerily uncanny in the way they speak, characters are usually selfish or antisocial, and line delivery is very monotonous. This is especially prevalent in films like The Killing of a Sacred Deer or The Lobster and this style definitely made its return in Kinds of Kindness, but the reason we are still able to root for these monotonous, odd characters is because we get to spend two hours or more with them, Kinds of Kindness does not give its characters that benefit. The film is further hurt by its random, abrupt bouts of graphic sex and violence that are both unnecessary and difficult to watch. I'm not opposed to graphic content when it adds to the story, but the explicit nature of Kinds of Kindness often borders on tastelessness. There were multiple times in the theater where I looked over to my friend in confusion, or checked my watch to see how much longer I had to sit there.

Despite the wasted potential of Kinds of Kindness, the film is not without its strengths. The standout part of the movie are the performances, especially those by Willem Dafoe, Emma Stone, Hong Chau, and Jesse Plemons. The cinematography by Robbie Ryan and the editing by Yorgos Mavropsaridis work very well together, and add to the film's uncanny atmosphere. Seeing it premiere at Cannes was definitely an experience I'll never forget.

Overall, the success of Kinds of Kindness gives me hope for the future of cinema, not because its particularly good, but because its an original story that has millions of people eagerly awaiting its arrival in theaters. In an industry currently jam-packed with reboots, sequels, and billion dollar franchises, it's nice to see an original film get so much attention. I sincerely hope that its limited theatrical run is a success.

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