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CANNES 2024 Competition

Review: Kinds of Kindness


- CANNES 2024: Being weird for the sake of it isn’t enough to enable Yorgos Lanthimos to craft a compelling cinematic experience, so his new effort remains colourful yet hollow

Review: Kinds of Kindness
Emma Stone and Joe Alwyn in Kinds of Kindness

A few months after scooping the Golden Lion with Poor Things [+see also:
film review
interview: Suzy Bemba
Q&A: Yorgos Lanthimos
film profile
, Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos is back with his latest effort, Kinds of Kindness [+see also:
film profile
, which has world-premiered in the main competition of this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The picture, billed as “a triptych fable”, consists of three stories that are very loosely connected, and whose main themes and true meanings are hard to grasp. It’s difficult to describe the “plots” of these three episodes, although the official synopsis makes them appear as quite linear, intelligible stories.

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The first part, called “The Death of RMF”, follows Robert (Jesse Plemons), whose life is fully controlled by his boss, Raymond (Willem Defoe). The man monitors everything he does: he tells him what to eat, drink and read, when to have sex, and has literally chosen everything for him, including his wife (Hong Chau). When Raymond asks Robert to kill a mysterious man (RMF, played by Yorgos Stefanakos) by causing a poorly planned car crash, Robert attempts to rebel, yearning to take control of his life again.

The second part, “RMF is Flying”, zooms in on a police officer called Daniel (Plemons), who believes that his wife Liz (Emma Stone), who is back after being reported missing, is an imposter.

The last one, titled “RMF Eats a Sandwich”, revolves around a weird sect that seems to worship sex and water, and tasks Emily (Stone) and Andrew (Plemons) to find a particular person who may be able to resurrect the dead.

The first episode is perhaps the most well-balanced – despite its bizarre nature, it doesn’t go overboard as dramatically as the other two. It seems to be an uneven tale about obedience and subjugation, yet is still far from being credible, meaningful or appealing – even in metaphorical terms.

The feeling is that everything in this movie is exactly like the purple Dodge that Emily drives in the third episode. The lavish sports car is there merely because the person who chose it thought it looked great on screen. But its presence doesn’t add anything to the characters’ development, nor to the story: it’s just beautiful to see, and Emma Stone (or, rather, her stunt double) enjoys drifting with it just like in a Fast & Furious flick.

Being weird for the sake of being weird isn’t enough if you want to make a piece of engaging storytelling, or even a stimulating viewing experience. It’s also impossible to empathise with any of the characters, as they’re all over the top and embody the worst possible qualities, and thus are barely identifiable as human beings. One could say: “It’s Lanthimos, after all.” Yes, but there must be balance and internal rules to everything, even in the most absurd of the stories, so that they can work and we can enjoy them to the fullest. In this sense, Lanthimos’s previous body of work shows an attempt to strike that balance. Here, we’re dealing with something different.

The attempt to prioritise aesthetic choices that will facilitate his usual “cool weirdness” takes over, and all we’re left with is an empty shell, something similar to what happened in Wes Anderson’s latest films. In Kinds of Kindness, we’ll see great actors with their iconic faces doing what they always do (Defoe being a sadistic old man, Plemons a sociopath and Stone simply dazed, all of them incredibly sexually aroused), deliberate (or not-so-deliberate) comedic moments, disgusting interludes merely to impress, vaguely echoing Greek mythology (there are pinches of cannibalism and animal abuse), and pretentious titles and mysteries revolving around RMF and all of the other characters (never solved, because otherwise “it would be too obvious”), all set to Jerskin Fendrix’s pounding score, which is made up of heavy piano notes and sporadic eerie voices (sometimes screaming something that sounds like “Nooooo” when things go awry).

Kinds of Kindness is a production by Element Pictures (Ireland), Film4 (UK) and TSG Entertainment (USA). Searchlight Pictures is in charge of its international distribution.

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Photogallery 18/05/2024: Cannes 2024 - Kinds of Kindness

19 pictures available. Swipe left or right to see them all.

Emma Stone, Mamoudou Athie, Yorgos Lanthimos
© 2024 Fabrizio de Gennaro for Cineuropa -,

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