untitled design

Kinds of Kindness, the review of Lanthimos' film with Emma Stone

One of the simple, yet great, joys of Cannes Film Festival is to throw away the formal clothes and put back on normal clothes. Relaxation is immediate, everything suddenly seems easier. Maybe that's exactly how the director felt Yorgos Lanthimos after concluding his sought-after, award-winning bildungsroman epic the Oscar, Poor creatures, and then slip into his new one Kinds of Kindnesswhich premiered at Cannes.

This is a return to Lanthimos' style on a smaller scale frank coldness which made him famous. Kinds of Kindness shares the same DNA as Dogtooth or The sacrifice of the sacred deer, little morbid stories that border on nihilism. In Kinds of KindnessLanthimos and co-writer Efthimis Filippou they stage three short stories of people desperately trying to regain control of their lives, however dark and strange they may have been before fate called them.

As also happened with Lanthimos' previous works, Kinds of Kindness risks causing alienation. Each story ends on a note of dissonance that could be read as a middle finger to the audience or a provocation sterile. Those who hope to find the great meaning – or, indeed, any explanation for what is happening – are denied the right to speak. Kinds of Kindness And intelligent and a little' contemptuousa showcase full of curiosities not designed for beauty.

The first section, entitled The Death of RMFhas as its protagonist Jesse Plemons – whose dry, deadpan tone naturally suits Lanthimos and Filippou's writing – as Robert, a corporate employee who has an unnerving devotion to his boss, Raymond (Willem Dafoe, who has a lot of fun). Robert has regulated his life by following Raymond's instructions to the letter: get fat to please him; has sex with his wife (Hong Chau) when told to do so; he is even willing to crash his car, risking his life and that of the stranger who was paid to get rear-ended with his BMW. Why Raymond is willing to do all this is never made clear. All we understand is that there is something psychosexual that binds Robert, Raymond and Raymond's wife, played by Margaret Qualley.

This may be a metaphor to describe those who abandon their autonomy (and morality) to please the gods of capitalism, guaranteeing themselves a comfortable and upwardly mobile life in exchange at the expense of their own pleasure and the well-being of others. Or maybe there's no such thing and Lanthimos just wanted to have fun with Plemons and Dafoe, which is still a very valid reason to justify anything.

The second story, RMF Is Flyingis the most elusive and concerns a man (Plemons) who longs for his missing wife (Emma Stone) but does not love those who return in the end. There is no shortage in Flying the clever moments, particularly a very funny, if a little clichéd, sex joke, but Lanthimos tries to use the virtue of patience as he delves into increasingly inscrutable territory. Opacity is fine; strangeness for strangeness's sake has been the intention of many great works of art. Too often, however, in Flyingyou have the feeling of coming teased only to get an annoyed reaction. The game quickly becomes boring.

The atmosphere that the third panel of the triptych gives us is quite different, RMF Eats a Sandwich, by far the most engaging. Stone and Plemons play two members of a cult (or something similar to a cult), Andrew and Emily, who are looking for a young woman – identified by some sort of prophecy, we assume – with healing powers. Their leaders, played by Dafoe and Chau, like Dafoe's character in the first chapter, imposed harsh conditions on Andrew and Emily. In particular, perhaps, to Emily, who abandoned her husband (Joe Alwyn) and his little daughter for him.

Sandwich It's probably the cruelest of the three shorts, but it also has a weight and dimension that the others lack. Stone is, as always, a commanding presence, even when he's tasked with speaking in the blank tone that Lanthimos favors when he's not working with Tony McNamara (screenwriter of Favorite And Poor creatures). Sad parody of wellness culture (at least, I think), Sandwich ends with a bad goodbye that is actually deserved. Lanthimos may still poke fun at us in an annoying way, but at least he completes this last story, giving us a fairy tale with a fitting ending.

The quiet groans from the audience around me every time a story ended seemed to suggest that not everyone is happy to see Lanthimos return to his macabre provocations. I too can't say I prefer this mode to his more solemn and dignified works. However, one perceives a pleasant energy in seeing a talented director play freely, taking it easy after six years of elaborate period films. Maybe one day she will be able to find one compromise, to satisfy both sides of his artistic interest and to speak to a wider audience. Or maybe not, every now and then he will return to making a film “just for me”, like this last one, distancing his audience again to have some oxygen.

Source: Vanity Fair

You may also like

Get the latest

Stay Informed: Get the Latest Updates and Insights


Most popular