Kinds of Kindness: Yorgos Unleashed

No one can accuse Yorgos Lanthimos of playing it safe.

Having created such films as The Lobster and Poor Things, the acclaimed writer/director is known for creating tales that challenge the viewers mind (and, sometimes, patience). With the release of Kinds of Kindness, Yorgos creates another visual puzzle box inside an enigmatic mystery. For him, there’s joy in the absurd and he is more than willing to bring the viewer along with him into the bizarre.

Kinds of Kindness follows three very different stories. Entitled The Death of RMF, the first story follows a man who lives a life of powerlessness but finally attempts to break free, only to discover that the roots of evil run more deeply than he’d believed. In RMF is Flying, we meet a policeman who is devastated by the loss of his wife at sea. However, upon her return, he struggles to believe that she is who she claims to be. Finally, RMF Eats a Sandwich follows a woman who is involved with a prodigious spiritual leader and his commune. As she searches tireless for someone with a special ability, she may cause greater damage to the family she once knew in the process.

In Kinds of KindnessYorgos is Yorgos Unleashed. Through his three narratives, Lathimos indulges himself to tell stories that are both compelling and, frankly, confusing when held up against one another. In each fable, he weaves fascinating tales of abuse and deception yet seems coy with his purpose in doing so. In some ways, it feels as though Lanthimos has spun three consecutive episodes of The Twilight Zone but still refuses to let the viewer in. They are a weird, wild and strangely wonderful mixture of the bizarre and morbid. But, even though you’re not quite sure if you’re enjoying the ride, you can’t seem to look away either. By using the same actors in each piece, Lanthimos seems to take an almost multiversal approach to his stories. 

Although the characters are entirely different, they still feel connected. 

This is also helped by the fact that everyone continues to bring what feels like their best work to the pieces. In each story and performance, one thing is clear: Lanthimos’ actors trust their director entirely. Jesse Plemons anchors each one of the stories with varied levels of pathos. Willem Dafoe continues to lean into the bizarre with enthusiasm. Margot Qualley, Mamadou Athie and Hong Chau all offer solid support in their various roles. But, of course, the true star of the film is Emma Stone. In each film, Stone brings entirely different energies to her characters, sometimes within the same film. (Perhaps the best example of this could be in the film’s second piece, RMF is Flying,  where she has an innocence and disconnected malevolence in various moments.)

To try to unlock the mystery of Yorgos’ segments is a challenge but I can’t help but believe that the secret lies in the title of the compilation. Entitling the piece Kinds of Kindness suggests that the key link between all the pieces has to do with the relationships within them. 

In each film, we watch as families are torn apart by toxic forces, both external and internal. For example, The Death of RMF taps into the sort of abusive control that can take place when we allow ourselves to get lost within our relationships. Meanwhile, RMF is Flying pushes the boundaries of what someone ‘will do for love’, exposing the selfishness that lies at its root. Finally, RMF Eats a Sandwich points out the emptiness of pouring one’s self into the life of another, trying to reach satisfaction through their approval. By holding them up against one another, Yorgos seems to suggest that there is little true kindness in the world as each person serves their own agendas.

Or, I could be entirely wrong. 

The truth is that Kinds of Kindness is not meant to be the type of film that the viewer easily consumes. Lanthimos revels in making his viewers uncomfortable and, with each bizarre tale of woe, he manages to succeed.

Kinds of Kindness is available in theatres on Friday, June 21st, 2024 

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