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Kinds Of Kindness ★★★★



Released: 28th June 2024

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring: Jesse Plemons, Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Hong Chau, Margaret Qualley, Joe Alwyn, Hunter Shaffer

Yorgos Lanthimos has been a singular voice in contemporary cinema for two decades, hard to pin down but with a distinctive visual flair and an ability to provoke strong reactions through shocking imagery. There is more to him than just shock value though as proven by the awards love for The Favourite and Poor Things in particular, both of which scooped the award for Best Actress in their respective years for Olivia Colman and Emma Stone. Lanthimos now reteams with Stone for their third collaboration Kinds of Kindness, a series of vignettes with some of the blackest comedy. Alongside Stone it marks a first collaboration with Jesse Plemons, earning a Best Actor win at Cannes. The rest of the cast is a split of Lanthimos regulars including Willem Dafoe and Margaret Qualley, alongside newcomers like Hong Chau.

Its short story structure, each running at about 55 minutes, means the 2hr 45 runtime never feels an obstacle for the audience. This feels like a split between the absurdism of The Lobster in a more real setting, shifting away from the more fantastical elements of Poor Things. The stories being more grounded helps make the provocative and deadpan imagery all the more horrific. Perhaps not as frequent as say Poor Things, but it merely adds to their power.

While the stories are for the most part self-contained. They contain common themes on abuse of power with Willem Dafoe playing two different yet both dastardly figures that inspire a cult like following and Plemons and Stone’s relationship at the centre of all three stories in completely different ways. It is thrilling to see how each story will unfold into something harrowing, with Jerskin Fendrix’s entrancing score balancing piano and choral voices, setting the tone to create an uncomfortable, encroaching atmosphere that never relents.

Jesse Plemons is well worth his Cannes award and in the first two vignettes in particular. He delivers some of his best work to date, a nervous, dedicated workhorse in one and an uneasy man pushed to breaking point by the return of his wife in the other. It is refreshing to see him here in an out and out leading role to showcase his credentials and with the likes of Stone and Dafoe, effortlessly slips into the quirks and mannerisms the material demands. It would certainly be no surprise to see him in awards conversations come spring 2025. Stone is utilised more sparingly than we might expect early on before leading the final story R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich, these roles couldn’t be further from her acclaimed turn as Bella Baxter in Poor Things but she shows how strong a partnership there is between her and Lanthimos.

How much audiences get out of this film might well depend on their predisposition to Lanthimos’ style. Those onboard will likely be enthralled by his audacity and risk-taking, never sticking to the script and capable of derailing what we expect from these stories at any turn. Often darkly hilarious and truly shocking in moments. Kinds of Kindness is a return to roots in some senses for Lanthimos, resulting in an exhilarating, upending 2 hrs 45 of cinema that makes the most of its esteemed cast.

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