Kinds of Kindness — REVIEW
Image: Source: SFF

By ASPEN ABNER

Once the screen in Sydney’s State Theatre went black, I had two adjectives to describe Kinds of Kindness: bizarre and surreal. Yorgos Lanthimos’s 165-minute film is classified under the genres of “comedy” and “drama”, but as a forewarning, the plot is more sinister than this classification. 

This triptych fable is split into three sections: “The Death of R.M.F.” which follows a man who breaks away from his controlling boss; “R.M.F. is Flying” where a man is reunited with his wife lost at sea but has suspicions that a doppelganger has replaced his wife; and “R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich”, where a cult’s mission is to find a specific person who can resurrect the dead.

Who is RMF? RMF appears as a silent, bearded man identified by the monogram on his shirt in “The Death of R.M.F.”. RMF is the only character whose role doesn’t change throughout the entire film. Yet, he never says a line of dialogue. His presence doesn’t exert much influence over the movie but casts an ominous shadow nevertheless. 

The star-studded cast includes Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, Hong Chau, Joe Alwyn, Mamoudou Athie, and Margaret Qualley (let’s not forget Hunter Schafer’s cameo). Each plays a different character in the three tales, adding to the Twilight Zone-esque plotline. All of the performances are note-worthy, but Jesse Plemons’ evolving three roles are particularly effective in making the absurd feel realistic. 

The sections seem impossible to connect but some elements bind the scenes besides this elusive RMF. Slightly off-key piano chords accompany the more disturbing scenes, adding to the strange twists. Another overarching connection stringing the mini-films together is the theme. This film explores love and obsession, with many intermissions of dark comedy. These darker stories comment on people’s desperation to be loved and what people will do to hold on to love. This dogged pursuit of love provides the characters with comfort, something to stop the loneliness. 

Don’t let the title fool you. There is very little kindness in the movie. Or it’s the type of kindness that is kind on paper but has many invisible strings attached. There is no comfortable happy ending, seeming more like a bad dream with no satisfying conclusion. 

I found myself captivated and surprisingly laughing at the deadpan twists that occurred, no matter how disturbed I was seconds before. How much you like this movie will depend on your preference for the dark and sometimes gruesome displays. 

Lanthimos offers visceral, original visuals imbued with startling imagery. These visuals complement the varied plotlines and shifting acting roles. Some will find this film disturbing: many scenes are sometimes unsettling to watch (I also had to look away once in “R.M.F. is Flying”). Yet the message that lies beneath these loosely intertwined stories is that humans will do the unspeakable for love. 

Is the selfishness redeemable? Well, you can form your own opinion after watching Kinds of Kindness

★★★½  

Kinds of Kindness releases in cinemas July 11th, 2024. 

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