de facto film reviews 3 stars

Yorgos Lanthimos’s surrealist, wickedly funny horror/dark comedy Kinds of Kindness may be more in line with his earlier Greek films, but its otherworldly tone and rich style, with themes that ask fresh, fascinating questions about human nature, make for an unforgettable experience. An anthology film that consists of three distinct but loosely connected stories of the same group of actors, where each story has similar themes about power, control, and the primitive nature of human sexuality and meat eating.

Lanthimos first feature since The Killing of a Sacred Deer, where he contributes as a co-writer with frequent co-writer Efthimios Filippou, in which they have collaborated before on Lanthimos previous films as Dogtooth, Alps, and The Lobster. Kinds of Kindness is more akin to Lanthimos’s earlier work than with Poor Things and The Favorite, for which Lanthimos gathered great critical acclaim and was nominated for Best Picture and Director, in which the screenplays were more commercially accessible by Tony McNamara. Detractors of the more cynical Lanthimos side will be dismissive of Kinds of Kindness, as Lanthimos aficionados should be appeased with his post-modern, absurdist sensibilities.

Kinds of Kindness (2024)

Courtesy Searchlight

Shot with less fisheye’s lens and with the similar wider-Kubrickian shots that were used in Killing of the Sacred of the Deer, much of the film takes place from the point of view of Jesse Plemons characters in the first two stories and more from Emma Stone’s character in the third act, with Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, and Mamoudou Athie playing various different characters throughout the story. The first story involves Robert (Plemons), whose life is controlled by his business tycoon boss and lover, Raymond (Dafoe). Raymond arranges Robert’s weight and wardrobe, and he even arranges his marriage with his wife Sarah (Chau) and even controls when he has sex with her and if he can have a child with her. Eventually, Raymond orders Robert to crash his car at an intersection to kill a pedestrian who has his initials, R.M.F., who signed a waiver to die. After failing at first, Robert finds himself in demise, Sarah goes missing, and Robert becomes more desperately dependent on Raymond and his wife Vivian (Qualley).

This of the three is the weakest of the three; it feels the most arbitrarily structured and loosest, but you never know where it’s going. With a sardonic final scene that will likely baffle, frustrate, and perplex most viewers, the rest of the film. We are introduced to the second chapter of the film, in which we see Plemons playing a police officer named Daniel who is disheartened by the recent disappearance of his wife Liz (Stone), a biologist who went missing in the woods, and it is revealed that Daniel and Liz participated in a four-way conversation with his police partner and best friend Neil (Arthie) and his wife Martha Qualley and videotaped them. Daniel even insists he watches the videos. Liz ends up being located and rescued; she returns to Daniel, but she seems stranger; Daniel begins to grow more suspicious of her after her desires and sexuality becomes more erratic; and Daniel ends up craving undercooked meat and eventually human blood after he licks the wound of a passenger after shooting them in the hand during a traffic stop.

Emma Stone

Courtesy Searchlight

The third story is the most fascinating and involves two cult members, Emily (Stone) and Andrew (Plemons), who search out a woman who can heal the dead. Through premonitions, dreams, and synchronicities, Emily has visions of twin sisters (Qualley) who could be reanimators. Meanwhile, Emily ends up getting drugged by her estranged ex-husband, Joseph (Joe Alwyn), and he date-rapes her, causing Andrew to kick her out of the cult for being “contaminated.” Emily is still determined to hunt down reanimators from her dreams to get back into the cult; one is suicidal but does suggest her twin sister Ruth (Qualley) works as a veterinarian who has the power to heal wounds. This section of the film reminded the most of Nicholas Refn with its setting, tone, and metaphysical surrealism.

Of course, Lanthimos wants the viewer to ponder what they’re watching and what it all means, and the film can certainly be frustrating with its absurdity and arbitrary storytelling structure. However, like most effective surrealism, it stays with you, and you find yourself haunted by the film way upon initial viewing. I admit to walking out bewildered, baffled, and irritated. I wasn’t sure if it was provocations or if was Lanthimos just trying to shock for the sake of being shocking, but the more I processed the film, the more brilliance I found in its approach, ideas, and style. The film is certainly worth seeing; it’s a lot to unpack in one viewing, and I’m sure it will only certainly grow even more on a second viewing. It might not be Lanthimos at his greatest, but it’s certainly a maddening experience about just how maddening humanity can be.

KINDS OF KINDNESS is now playing in theaters