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The Most Absurd Film You'll Watch This Year... 'Kinds of Kindness' Finds Theatrical Release After Stunning Crowds at Cannes


Emma Stone and Joe Alwyn in Yorgos Lanthimos' Kinds of Kindness


First, a question. How deep is your love? 


Walking out of this theatre will feel like you've just lived three entire and wholly different lifetimes. Yorgos Lanthimos returns in the filmmaking form he’s best known for—an absolute sicko (in the best way). Surreal and unpredictable, Kinds of Kindness is comprised of three stories about three people trying to regain things they’ve lost beyond normal conventions or means. Don’t know what that means? You’re not really supposed to. Viewers who innately crave exposition or explanations will be denied both as Lanthimos likes to play in the shadows and leaves almost everything we’d expect to be said… unsaid.


The cast of Kinds of Kindness at the Festival de Cannes in May 2024.


Impeccable set design tells us everything we need to know about these characters, whether we’re looking at the pristine corner offices of characters with extreme OCD or the purple Dodge Camaros of parents who’ve abandoned their children along with all rationality. For that we have Andrew Carnwath, Chris Cornwell, Anthony Gasparro and Amy Beth Silver to thank. Featuring a lot of interesting visuals and subjects, it seems to me Lanthimos has a fascination with fingers and hands, believing them to be some sort of conduits for control… a greater motif prevalent throughout each sanguine entry.  


Cinematographer Robbie Ryan returns to work with Lanthimos on the heels of his Oscar nomination for their latest collaboration Poor Things and their previous work on The Favourite. Ryan has nearly 150 credits on IMDb, one of which is a personal favorite of mine titled American Honey starring Sasha Lane, Shia Labeouf and Riley Keough that took the festival route by storm and even won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2016. This year at Cannes, the cast and crew of Kinds of Kindness received a four and a half minute standing ovation after its premiere. Mostly because this film must’ve been exuberantly fun to make, even if it didn’t necessarily turn out to be a feel good. 


Hunter Schafer as Anna in Kinds of Kindness


The common threads between the shorts are its tone, themes and the unrelenting score. Besides the cryptic and bizarre events that unfold before our very eyes during the generous two hour and forty four minute runtime, Jerksin Fendrix’s accompanying score acts as a primary source of disturbia. From the unsettling pulling of chords to the harsh jabs of piano, the music remains hauntingly familiar throughout and sculpts the atmosphere in a way that has us shutting our eyes once we hear it starting up again. 


Although receiving a wide release, Kinds of Kindness is an acquired taste meant for cinephiles who don’t shy away from art in its rawest, purest, most grotesque yet somehow endearing forms. Those who are squeamish may not do well with the constant and discomforting amount of mutilation, nudity and bodily fluids at large in this film. However, we are here for every unnerving moment of it! 


Margaret Qualley, Jesse Plemons and Willem Defoe in 'The Death of R.M.F.' in Kinds of Kindness


Richard Lawson at Vanity Fair calls the first entry of the three, The Death of R.M.F., ‘a metaphor for those who forsake their autonomy to please the gods of capitalism, who secure themselves a comfortable and upwardly mobile life at the cost of their own pleasure and well being’. This is a fascinating way to quantify the identity of Jesse Plemens’ character Robert who is disturbingly devoted to his boss, a man strangely aloof and reserved in his strict yet unconventional recreations. Played by Willem Defoe, Robert’s boss Raymond controls every aspect of Robert’s life down to the minute... including what he eats, what he drinks and even when he beds his wife, Sarah (Hong Chau). Robert has spent the last ten years hopelessly devoted to Raymond despite his obsessive and idiosyncratic antics, but everything changes once Raymond asks Robert to kill another man for him. Can he go through with it even if denying Raymond means losing everything else? 


The second entry, R.M.F. Is Flying, plays like an episode of Black Mirror without the science fiction edge, ditching the blatant supernatural for unquantifiable mystery. Like I said, if you’re waiting for an explanation, you’ll be waiting forever as Lanthinmos has no intention of indulging you in anything other than a healthy serving of gaslighting, police brutality, bleeding appendages and chocolate cake. Plemens plays Daniel, a husband mourning the disappearance of his wife Liz (Emma Stone) who returns home different than how she left. The variances are slight at first, building a suspicious atmosphere reminiscent of the 1978 classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers. After a while, Daniel is convinced the real Liz is still missing and has been replaced by a woman who happens to look just like her. But is it really Liz? And if not, what will he have to do to get her back? 


The final entry certainly feels like the longest, even if it isn’t, and dives into a different sort of moral quandary than its predecessors. Stone and Plemens play two agents of an extremist cult, Emily and Andrew, hunting for a messiah with the ability to resurrect the dead. This is Stone’s chance to shine as Emily gets as thorough an arc as Robert did in the first short. She struggles to leave her family behind and join Omi (Defoe) and Aka’s (Chau) dedicated group of followers, remaining committed to the cause despite the roadblocks and speed limits along the way. If nothing else, R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich is a warning of the perils of reckless driving and joining cults led by men in tighty-whities.


Hong Chau as Aka in 'R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich' in Kinds of Kindness


Ultimately, this isn’t necessarily a film audiences need to see in theaters. If anything, the length and weight of this endeavour invites an at home viewing experience. There are certainly moments of this film that are hard to watch but each moderately morbid payoff is worth the nail scraping discomfort we feel throughout each chapter leading up to a crescendo of gut slicing, window shattering, toe stubbing good times!


Thank you Searchlight Pictures and The Extra Mile for the early screening access. Watch Kinds of Kindness in theatres everywhere this weekend!



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