Despite several heinous crimes, such as spousal rape, animal cruelty, self-mutilation, suicide and murder --- or because of them --- Yorgos Lanthimos continues his march to become what --- the most controversial director of all time? KINDS OF KINDNESS doesn’t actually contain much kindness, but it certainly awakens the viewer’s sensibilities to such depraved indifference.


Depravity is a recurring theme for Lanthimos. Humans are capable of unspeakable atrocities, and he doesn’t shy away from proving this. Cruelty and the power to wield it is present again and again. The absurdity of the darkness is often laughable and notably cringe-worthy. But the fact is Lanthimos makes nothing easy for his audience.


In KINDS OF KINDNESS, Lanthimos takes a more contemporary turn as his three-part fable unfolds. In “The Death Of R.M.F.”, Jesse Plemons plays Robert, a man whose boss, Raymond (Willem Dafoe), controls every aspect of his life --- not only his business decisions, but his personal choices, as well. When Robert refuses to perform a task given by Raymond, he is shunned --- cast out --- and his life implodes.


In the second segment, “R.M.F. Is Flying”, Plemons is now a police officer whose wife, Liz (Emma Stone), is lost at sea. He’s bereft without her, but when she does finally return safe --- and basically sound --- he tries to convince his partner, Neil (Mamoudou Athie), and his wife, Martha (Margaret Qualley) --- and even Liz’ father, George (Dafoe) --- that it isn’t really her.


And lastly, in “R.M.F. Eats A Sandwich”, Stone takes the lead as Emily, a woman who left her husband and daughter to join a cult led by Omi (Dafoe). She and Andrew (Plemons) are tasked with finding a special individual with very specific powers. And once again, control is a central issue --- and Omi is in control.


Lanthimos utilizes each of his actors in all three of these stories. Stone has been his most frequent collaborator, as they have established a very comfortable working relationship. She’s absolutely terrific, especially as Emily who is determined to find just the right person for her guru. She is driven --- much like her crazy driving when she whips her purple Dodge Challenger around parking lots and in and out of traffic. It’s hilarious --- and reminds me of someone who holds the title of “The She-Demon Devil Driver from the Depths of Hell” --- but my lips are sealed.


And Plemons is truly noteworthy. All three of his portrayals, though different, have a connective feeling. In each, Plemons has a strong command of his character, from a wimpy subordinate, to a confused and angry husband --- and lastly, as a strict rule follower incapable of thinking for himself. It’s an astonishing transformation from one storyline to another with only the subtlest changes in hair and makeup.


Dafoe, Athie, Qualley, along with Joe Alwyn, Hong Chau and Hunter Schafer round out a superb ensemble who float from one bizarre part of this triptych to another seamlessly. Dafoe is particularly unnerving as Omi, a leader many people might find repulsive, but whose devoted followers will do anything to earn his sexual favors.


To compound the unconventionality of his screenplay, co-written with Efthimis Filippou, Lanthimos enlists the talents of composer Jerskin Fendrix, who received an Oscar nomination for POOR THINGS. Here, the director suggested a combination of piano and choir and Fendrix employs both in the most discordant way possible. As is common in more and more films, the music becomes another character in the process.


True to form, KINDS OF KINDNESS is not a movie for the masses. Lanthimos has his own distinct style --- at times brilliant --- other times horrifying. But there is no denying that he makes the experience worthy of discussion.


Opinion: See It Now!





Director Yorgos Lanthimos keeps churning out one bizarre film after another. This time, following his Oscar-winning POOR THINGS, it’s KINDS OF KINDNESS, which is actually three stories in one, a.k.a. a triptych. Lanthimos also tends to work with many of the same actors, here being reunited with Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe and Margaret Qualley. Jesse Plemons is the other major cast member, working here with Lanthimos for the first time.


KINDS OF KINDNESS divides its lengthy running time among three stories utilizing the same cast members but in starkly different roles. Yet they all display human relationships that are built on trust and faith, or lack thereof. For fans of Lanthimos’ work, the absurdity of each succeeding story surpasses the previous and that’s probably the appeal. While some may find this film entertaining and amusing, I do not share that sentiment.


Is it entertaining when a character slices off a thumb? Or when a character cuts out her own liver to appease her partner? Or when a dog is kicked and later purposely cut with a knife. Or when a character dives headlong into a swimming pool drained of all its water? That is not to say that Lanthimos’ film is lacking in intrigue. But what these three triptych entries do lack is any sense of suspense.

Lanthimos seems to revel in shocking his audience, whether with any of the above-mentioned acts or showing a video of two couples having sex simultaneously.


The first story presented here is arguably the best and easily the most normal. Characters portrayed by Plemons and Dafoe are engaged in a battle of wills. When Raymond (Dafoe) commands Robert (Plemons) to perform a certain act --- Robert refuses daring to assert his own free will. Lanthimos and his co-writer Efthimis Filippou certainly know how to maintain their viewers’ attention.


But then things get really twisted in story number two. Liz (Stone) is married to Daniel (Plemons) and has been missing for an indeterminate time, lost at sea. When she is finally found and returns to Daniel, he senses that she’s not really Liz at all, even though she looks identical to his wife. One clue is that this Liz eats leftover chocolate cake and smokes cigarettes, two things his wife would never do.


The final segment of the triptych features Qualley prominently as twins Ruth and Rebecca. Emily (Stone) has the mindset that one twin must be dead, and the surviving twin has a certain unique power.


One of the film’s producers has stated that “these themes are often taken to absurd (but darkly funny) heights and that is certainly the case in KINDS OF KINDNESS.”

That’s not to say the movie does not display its own brand of humor. In one segment, one of Stone’s characters drives a souped-up Dodge Challenger and wherever she goes she operates the vehicle like a maniacal person auditioning for a stunt driver job.


For POOR THINGS, Lanthimos hired a young composer, Jerskin Fendrix, whose work on that film earned him an Academy Award nomination. For KINDS OF KINDNESS, Fendrix again provides the score --- it’s the eeriest music this side of IT FOLLOWS (2014). If you’re a fan of Lanthimos’ vivid imagination, you likely know to expect the unexpected. In that case, KINDS OF KINDNESS may be just what you crave.


Opinion:  Wait for VOD