Kinds of Kindness Review

We review Yorgos Lanthimos’s deeply disturbing but fascinating trio of tales, Kinds of Kindness, starring Emma Stone and Jesse Plemons.

Kinds of Kindness review

PLOT: A trilogy of darkly comedic tales surrounding a businessman who can’t make decisions for himself, a police officer who thinks his wife has been replaced by someone else, and a pair of cult members on the lookout for the next messiah. 

REVIEW: Is Yorgos Lanthimos messing with us? That was the inescapable thought roaming around my head as I watched Kinds of Kindness, the Poor Things director’s latest morbid take on love, personal freedom, and those bizarre creatures known as human beings.. The answer to the question is… probably. And even if he isn’t messing with us, he knows it seems like he is. 

If that doesn’t make much sense right off the bat, well, neither does Kinds of Kindness, at least not after only one viewing. Cheeky and uninterested in supplying an orthodox moviegoing experience, the film finds Lanthimos in the same mood he was in when he made The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, meaning he’s happily injecting a twisted sense of humor into uncomfortable stories revolving around some very unusual relationships. It will not be the most satisfying 165 minutes you’ve ever spent at the movies (yes, it’s that long and feels it), but you can’t say it’s the same old thing.

More than anything, it’s a movie about conformity; the importance of being accepted and the lengths some people are willing to go to earn the love of another. But through the crafty, creepy lens of Yorgos, it’s also a pitch black satire, a non-love story where control and obedience take precedence over affection and forgiveness. 

Beyond those themes, the stories aren’t connected in any concrete way save for one character who plays a minor role in each one, and his importance is questionable at best. In the first tale, a businessman (Jesse Plemons) has dedicated his life to doing whatever his boss (Willem Dafoe) tells him to, but when the latter’s latest request seems like a bridge too far, his life begins to rapidly unravel. In the second, a police officer (Plemons again) is initially pleased when his long-missing wife (Emma Stone) is rescued, but his relief soon turns to suspicion when she starts acting like a completely different person. In the finale, two members of a cult (Stone and Plemons) attempt to track down a person who can allegedly bring the dead back to life. 

Kinds of Kindness, Yorgos Lanthimos

Each chapter has a set-up that wouldn’t be out of place in a more conventional anthology of psychological thrillers; Alfred Hitchcock Presents comes to mind. But in Yorgos’ hands, the narratives churn and escalate in highly unconventional ways. He’s having a great deal of fun at the expense of his characters – and, in turn, the audience – provoking more questions than he cares to answer. You shouldn’t expect the director to wrap up his stories with clever little twists or revelations, because he’s not interested in tidy resolutions. This is likely to frustrate those who feel like they’ve invested too much time in trying to unwrap a riddle, but for Yorgos the journey is the point; creating an atmosphere of almost comical dread is why he’s here – and he’s certainly good at it.

But sometimes Lanthimos allows his indulgences to get the best of him. A primary example: the director and his composer Jerskin Fendrix frequently employ heavily over-the-top music cues to underline the dire nature of the proceedings, a gregorian chant pops up every now and then to accompany scenes already brimming with tension. No doubt there’s a tongue planted firmly in cheek throughout these heavy-handed moments, but it gets a little tiresome by the fourth or fifth time. The film in general has the self-satisfied atmosphere of an elaborate prank, and it’s clear Yorgos is all too pleased with his own wickedness, as if he’s waiting to see if you’ll laugh at an inside joke you don’t get. Your enjoyment of the film will depend on how much unsubtle prodding you can take.

There’s no question the director is good with actors, and here he’s assembled a cast that’s ready to do his dirty work. While past collaborator Emma Stone is the headliner, this turns out to be Jesse Plemons’ movie. Plemons is just the right actor for Yorgos, with his innate ability to shift from amiable to intimidating without warning. There isn’t really another actor out there so simultaneously approachable and threatening, and Plemons shows off the entirety of his range with three very intense performances. 

Stone is, obviously, the filmmaker’s willing muse, and there’s little doubt he’s focused on making his actress bare all, literally and figuratively. The relationship is turning into one of the more fascinating director-actor collaborations in recent memory, gaining Stone two oscar nominations and one win in movies where she’s made to expose herself physically and emotionally in show-stopping ways. Speaking of actors who can play approachable and threatening with ease, Willem Dafoe can always be counted on, and in all three tales he gives off that very special quality of compelling the audience’s eye no matter what he’s doing. (I especially liked his bizarre but pragmatic character in the first story.)

Kinds of Kindness ends up being more intriguing when you’re experiencing it rather than when you’re remembering it. Its unpredictability is absolutely its biggest asset, but when the smoke clears you wonder what, if anything, it was all for. Super fans of the director will surely be enamored with the film’s lurid quirks, while the casual moviegoer might wonder what the hell just happened during that almost three hour sideshow. It’s not exactly rewarding, but it’s also difficult to look away from. 

Kinds of Kindness

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Source: JoBlo

About the Author

Eric Walkuski is a longtime writer, critic, and reporter for He's been a contributor for over 15 years, having written dozens of reviews and hundreds of news articles for the site. In addition, he's conducted almost 100 interviews as JoBlo's New York correspondent.