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  • Julian Wood


THREE STARS Among many, many other questions, who is the woman claiming to be a cop's dead wife?


Starring Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe

A few years ago the name Yorgos Lanthimos would bring knowing glance from cineastes. His trickle of odd and interesting films (DOGTOOTH, ALPS) positioned him as a cult director in the making.  Then, quite reasonably, he wanted to make films that would reach American and global  audiences and he came up with THE LOBSTER which had much more gloss and an international cast. THE LOBSTER had all his quirkiness and dream logic and it was funny in an absurdist kind of way.  After that he made THE FAVOURITE which showcased an award-winning role from the great Olivia Coleman and introduced many viewers to Emma Stone. Since then Emma Stone sems to be the anchor for his films, if not actually his muse. She was more or less at the centre of his long and sprawling POOR THINGS (2022) and she is equally attention-grabbing in his new release KINDS OF KINDNESS. 

Another actor with a penchant for excess and sexual obsession is Willem Dafoe who was also in POOR THINGS of course. He seems to be a natural for the Lanthimos crew. A perhaps unexpected addition is the hard-working Jesse Plemons. Plemons  with his heavy pout and pitted complexion is no matinee idol, but as he showed in his earlier films (VICE, KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON) he has a powerful screen presence  and is not at all outdone by his co-stars here. In fact he is a good balance to Dafoe and Stone who need little encouragement to overact. 

KINDS OF KINDNESS is a loose sort of triptych, with three linked tales that explore dysfunctional couplings and American urban alienation. At least we presume these are some of its themes, what it is actually about, and how much it really has to say, is another matter. 

To be fair, there are one or two great scenes in here. One scene in which a character bemoans the loss of his wife to concerned friends at a dinner party has a surprise ending which is truly subversive and laugh out loud funny. Lanthimos knows to how shock and bemuse and say something wild-but-true at the same time.

Stone as usual is very watchable and she clearly revels in realising naïve and off beat characters.  She even gets to do a little of her beloved weird jerky dancing. 

That said, the film is self-indulgently long at three hours. When Lanthimos is more cogent and disciplined – such as in his riveting take on a Greek tragedy in THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (2017) – he can reach places which few contemporary directors can. 

As implied though, his move to the mainstream and the big time  - where perhaps no one is game to tell him when he has overreached – is not guaranteed to bring out the best in him. This film had lots of promise but it is a bit of a mess. You can’t help wishing that his next film had all his evident gifts but was just purer and more focussed.



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