Kinds of Kindness Review: This Wonderfully Wacky Psychosexual Triptych Won’t be for Everyone

With sharp dialogue, laugh out loud black comedy and a lot of themes and ideas to chew on (perhaps too many), Kinds of Kindness is a bold, divisive character study that will be commended by most, but not loved by all. 

Kinds of Kindness

Kinds of Kindness is director and writer Yorgos Lanthimos’ newest feature, fresh off the back of Poor Things success. Poor Things, labeled by many as his most accessible film to date, was nominated for an Academy Award in eleven categories and won in four. Kinds of Kindness sees him teaming back up with co-writer Efthymis Fillippou, who he has collaborated with on prior projects including The Lobster (2015), The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) and Dogtooth (2009). As can be expected, Kinds of Kindness is much more reminiscent of his older works, allowing his quirkier and less digestible storytelling to come through. A triptych fable following a man without choice who tries to take control of his life; a policeman who is alarmed that his wife who was missing at sea has returned and seems a different person; and a woman determined to find a specific someone with a special ability, Kinds of Kindness is built up of three short stories. Unconventionally entertaining, with fantastic performances and beautiful cinematography, Kinds of Kindness won’t be for everyone in both story and run-time.

Introducing audiences to three stories in one film is quite a task, especially when they’re as unconventional as this. Despite each segment being fairly similar in tone and theme, they’re completely different in plot which keeps things intriguing and makes the 164-minute run-time a little more digestible. The film, in general, is a genre blend; it primarily opts for comedy-drama, but all stories have an element of mystery to them, and even a sinister and eerie edge. The comedy on display within the script is blunt and dark, with dry dialogue being delivered by the cast. There’s a lot of charm to the weirdness of the script, and it’s very reminiscent of the dialogue of the auteur’s earlier films. Lanthimos and Fillipou pack in body horror, sex, cults, necromancy, self-mutilation, abuse and prophecies amongst many other elements into this script, and it certainly comes across as wacky and edgy as it sounds. Each story, despite having exciting moments, opts for a slow-burn approach that doesn’t really speed up at any point. This does hinder the run-time, and for some, the payoff of the stories may not be enough to warrant this. It’s a lot to take in, with many audience members likely needing a day or two to digest what they’ve witnessed. This one is certainly more Dogtooth than The Favourite – it won’t be for everyone.

Kinds of Kindness

It’s always exciting when Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone (Poor Things) work together, and her performance is definitely up to scratch here. She delivers this script with the exact momentum and tone needed, perfectly embodying the stoic and blunt weirdness that’s asked of her. What’s further impressive is that due to three stories being told, much of our cast essentially has three performances to deliver that are often very different from one another. Emma Stone and Jesse Plemons (Civil War, Breaking Bad) get the most screen time here, with Plemons most often in the leading role – due to this, he is a standout. He’s used to delivering edgy roles yet this is certainly his wackiest yet, and he is utterly mesmerizing from start to finish. The supporting cast is absolutely stacked, including Willem Dafoe (Poor Things), Margaret Qualley (Drive-Away Dolls), Hong Chau (The Whale), Mamoudou Athie (Elemental), Joe Alwyn (The Favourite) and Hunter Schafer (Euphoria). It’s nice to see a cast built up of current, fresh and young talent amongst on-screen regulars, and there is plenty of talent to marvel at. A downside, however, is due to the size of the cast and how many fan favorites it contains, many end up underutilized and not receiving as much screen time as we’d hope. Those excited to see Hunter Schafer on the big screen may be disappointed to find she’s only in one story, and though Alwyn and Athie appear in all three, their roles are quite small. As wonderfully as Stone, Dafoe and especially Plemons are, it may have been fun to see the rest of the cast take the limelight more.

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As far as technical aspects are concerned, Kinds of Kindness is a marvel. The cinematography is consistently engaging, with Robbie Ryan behind the camera. His roster, including American Honey (2016), Fish Tank (2009) and C’mon C’mon (2021), shows that he is well suited to shooting slow building, character-driven stories, and his style lends itself well to Lanthimos and Fillipou’s script. It creates a great atmosphere, with many long shots that follow our characters from place to place, and close-ups that hone in on the uncomfortable. There’s plenty of satisfying symmetry and aesthetically pleasing sequences that make the slower scenes a little more enticing. The score from Jerskin Fendrix, who also offered his talent to Poor Things, opts for a clunky piano approach that amplifies the eerie, psychosexual nature of it all. The jarring approach works well alongside the equally jarring narrative, making things all the more unsettling as it progresses. Both the costume and set design are full of colour and life, from Stone’s purple Dodge Challenger that she rags around to Plemons’ bright orange get-up in the second short. These props and costumes are paired with muted, sterilized yet well designed backgrounds that often consist of hospitals, motels and even a morgue. It’s a treat for the ears and eyes.

The main takeaway from Kinds of Kindness is that it won’t be for everyone. The digestible nature of The Favourite, Poor Things and even perhaps The Lobster is left behind, with Yorgos likely confusing new viewers with three weird and wacky short stories. The run-time is long and the length can often be felt, due to the slow nature of each short and the constant feeling of not really understanding how it all ties together. However, the right audience will find a lot to enjoy within Lanthimos’ wonderfully unique, in-depth look at our wants, needs and psychosexual nature that makes us human. As Eurthymics’ track Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) tells us as the movie begins, everybody is looking for something, as Kinds of Kindness shows us the lengths we will go to to gain what we desire. With sharp dialogue, laugh out loud black comedy and a lot of themes and ideas to chew on (perhaps too many), Kinds of Kindness is a bold, divisive character study that will be commended by most, but not loved by all. 

Kinds of Kindness
Kinds of Kindness Review: This Wonderfully Wacky Psychosexual Triptych Won’t be for Everyone
3.5

Becca Johnson

Becca is a Rotten Tomato-approved freelance critic from Essex, UK, with a penchant for horror and coming-of-age. She can mainly be found at Film Focus Online, where she is Senior Writer. She specialises in new release reviews, rankings and Top 10's.

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