“Kinds of Kindness”


Metacritic (7/10), Letterboxd (3.5/5), Imdb.com (7/10), TMDB.com (7/10)

I’m going to say up front that this is a film I’m probably going to be processing for quite some time. The latest offering from writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos – best known for films like “The Lobster” (2015), “The Favourite” (2018) and “Poor Things” (2023) – is as much a puzzle as anything else. Told in three loosely interlaced stories with mostly the same cast members playing different roles in each, the film primarily deals in explorations of control and abuse examined from various angles. The individual stories plumb an array of additional subjects, including life, death, sanity, religion, cult membership, sexuality, dreams, surreality and self-indulgence, among others, most of which are tinged with exceedingly dark, macabre, cynical, satirical humor (evident even in its title) very much in the same vein as one of the filmmaker’s other, more troubling releases, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (2017). Unlike that mess of a picture, though, “Kinds of Kindness” is somewhat more coherently structured, both in its individual segments and overall, even though the finished product still has an overly cryptic eccentricity that could have benefitted from better delineated refinement. To be sure, “Kindness” has its strong points, such as its sardonic humor that may often have you giggling at things that you probably think you shouldn’t be laughing at. It also has strong performances from many of Lanthimos’s regulars, including Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe and Margaret Qualley, along with newcomers Hong Chau and Jesse Plemons, winner of the Cannes Film Festival Best Actor Award (though I can’t help but wonder what effect this film may have on the future of their careers, talent notwithstanding). And, much to my surprise, the pacing is fairly well sustained for a movie with a 2:45:00 runtime, probably because it holds viewer attention well, leaving audiences perpetually wondering where each of the vignettes is going next. On the downside, however, its graphic imagery, explicit sexuality, extreme violence and other questionable story elements may easily turn off some members (myself included at times), particularly when they push the limits of acceptability (sensitive viewers take note, especially animal lovers). So the bottom line questions here would be, “Did I like it?” and “Would I recommend it?” Well, that depends on how open one is to edgy content that clearly pushes the envelope. To be honest, there are things about this offering that I truly liked, but, then, my tastes tend to be more open-ended than those of many more conventional moviegoers. Because of that, however, this may consequently be seen as the kind of picture that many of those same audience members might find unduly troubling and offensive, readily labeling it as such and claiming that this is the sort of movie that gives many reviewers a bad name (and they probably wouldn’t be entirely wrong in saying that). Lanthimos has certainly pushed limits in many of his previous works, such as “Poor Things,” “The Lobster” and “The Favourite,” but the edginess of those releases had a playful, warmer, more whimsical feel to them than this outing, which is much more akin to the disturbing shadowiness of a film like “Sacred Deer.” Keep all of the foregoing in mind if you’re contemplating a screening of this one. And, in any event, if you come away from it outraged, disappointed or confused, don’t say you weren’t warned.