Emma Stone can count two of her greatest roles thanks to Yorgos Lanthimos.


The Greek filmmaker has directed her in period romp The Favourite and last year’s Poor Things, which won Stone a second Oscar of her career. Now, just a few months on, she’s back with him again in Kinds of Kindness. Only this time she has a trio of parts. An anthology, consisting of three increasingly baffling mini-films, Stone – like all the cast – plays multiple roles. It’s an interesting conceit, but one that doesn’t pay off as handsomely as you might hope.

The film is co-written by Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou, who collaborated on the director’s earlier films, including his 2009 debut Dogtooth, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. And Kind of Kindness certainly feels like a return to the bizarre universes those films conjured. Those, however, who enjoyed the verbal dexterity and bawdy feel of The Favourite and Poor Things, both written or co-written by Tony McNamara, may be left scratching their heads.

The films kicks off with ‘The Death of R.M.F.’, in which Jesse Plemons (Civil War) plays Robert, who seems caught in some sort of bizarre relationship with a man named Raymond (Willem Dafoe), who sends him instructions about his daily life, whether it’s abstaining from sexual intercourse or reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. He even sends Robert strange and rare gifts, like John McEnroe’s smashed tennis racket or Ayrton Senna’s scorched racing helmet. As Robert encounters Stone’s mysterious character, Rita, this borderline S&M relationship starts to sour.

Hong Chau and Jesse Plemons in Kinds of Kindness
Hong Chau and Jesse Plemons in Kinds of Kindness Searchlight Pictures

This enjoyable first part is followed by the more mysterious ‘R.M.F. Is Flying’, with Stone cast as Liz, married to Plemons’ cop Daniel. Liz has been missing, seemingly stranded on an island, but when she returns, Daniel becomes increasingly convinced that the woman in front of him is an imposter. The episode gets increasingly gory, as self-harm is taken to new levels, as Daniel tries again and again to shed himself of a woman he feels is not his spouse.

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Dafoe returns, playing her father, although this instalment will surely be remembered most for its sex scene. In one of Lanthimos’ most shocking and memorable moments, Daniel and Liz have invited their friends (Mamoudou Athie and Margaret Qualley) over for dinner. Casually, they watch a sex tape the quartet made previously, a bizarre pornographic interlude that’ll likely make those easily offended blush. Along with the gore, miscarriages become a theme of this short, suggesting the film is a meditation on the birth cycle and the self.

Closing out the film is ‘R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich’, with Stone cast as Emily, a woman estranged from her young daughter who seems in thrall to a cult leader (Dafoe). It’s easily the most befuddling of the three shorts, and running at around an hour, also the most frustrating. Driving recklessly around in her Dodge Challenger, Emily seems increasingly desperate to please her master, who likes to entomb his followers in a sweat lodge and purge their bodies of contamination. Even stranger is Qualley’s appearance as a woman with suicidal tendencies who has a habit of jumping in empty swimming pools.

For fans of Lanthimos’ alternate reality universes, Kinds of Kindness will have something revel in, but at 165 minutes, it’s an endurance test, and will likely alienate the casual viewer. Visually, it looks splendid, and with a cast that also includes Joe Alwyn (of The Favourite) and Hong Chau, there’s plenty of high-calibre actors on show. For sure, the unique flavour is pure Lanthimos through and through. But its opaque feel make it a sometimes trying experience.

Kinds of Kindness will be released in cinemas in the UK and Ireland on 28 June 2024.


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