Review | ‘Kinds of Kindness’: A trilogy of twisted tales from Yorgos Lanthimos (2024)

(3 stars)

Life is cruel, all is vanity, the house always wins and the cosmic joke is on us. Everything in popular culture conspires to hide these truths from us because they’re a lousy way to make money. Occasionally, however, creative artists turn up to remind us of the facts, and they’re usually not American. Kafka. Nabokov. Buñuel. Maybe Yorgos Lanthimos doesn’t belong in their company yet, but he’s giving it his best shot.

“Kinds of Kindness” may be the Greek writer-director’s way of clearing the peanut gallery of fair-weather fans after the success d’estime of his last two movies, “The Favourite” (2018) and last year’s “Poor Things.” A nearly three-hour trilogy of absurdist variations on themes of obsession, control and humiliation, the new film is a throwback to Lanthimos’s early work, including “The Lobster” (2015) and the relentlessly bleak “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (2017) — all three co-written with Efthimis Filippou.

What’s different is the confidence of the filmmaking; the bass note of pitch-black humor; and the support of a devoted stock company that includes Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau and — this movie’s secret weapon — Jesse Plemons. Team Lanthimos is growing, and if “Kinds of Kindness” qualifies as maximum audience punishment, those with strong stomachs and a stronger sense of irony may dig it. I know I did.

The movie’s very title seems to be a way of laughing in the dark (to paraphrase Nabokov). The first tale, “The Death of R.M.F.,” stars Plemons as Robert, a man whose “job” is following the daily directives of his boss, Raymond (Dafoe), as to when to eat, what to read (Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”) and when to have sex with his wife (Chau). When he balks after Raymond orders him to kill a man (Yorgos Stefanakos) in a staged car accident, Robert is exiled from his own life and resorts to increasingly desperate measures to regain Raymond’s favor.

Story No. 2 (“R.M.F. is Flying”): A police officer named Daniel (Plemons) becomes convinced that his wife (Stone), recently rescued from a desert island, has been replaced by a look-alike, a delusion that ultimately leads to bodily mutilation and a surprise ending. Story No. 3 (“R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich”): A woman (Stone) in a religious cult run by a sex guru (Dafoe) searches for a prophesied savior who can raise the dead and potentially finds her in an identical twin veterinarian (Qualley).

R.M.F. is the name of the minor character played by Stefanakos, who appears briefly in each vignette, and the connections among the three narratives are elusive and subterranean, like the uneasy rhymes one finds in dreams. Unknown things you should have done but didn’t; the sense that something, somewhere, has come permanently unmoored. The last and arguably the strongest chapter juggles bone-deep sadness, moral horror and a final bark of twisted comedy, and it lets Stone leave her all-American teen persona even farther in the rearview mirror. (The woman’s 35 now and has two Oscars on her shelf; if you don’t like her striking out into unknown territory, “Kinds of Kindness” suggests the problem is yours, not hers.)

Where “The Favourite” and especially “Poor Things” were triumphs of production design, fantastic fishbowl worlds that offered their own dark delights, the new film is stripped to the wall studs by comparison. The locations are mostly anonymous homes and office buildings in and around New Orleans, and the distorted wide-angle camera shots of the earlier movies have been replaced by bland, functional setups. Jerskin Fendrix’s discordant score jangles up and down the piano keyboard like an angry kitten. The entire movie seems designed to scrape your last nerve.


Why pay money for such a thing? What has this nasty foreign director done to our Emma? Aren’t movies supposed to be fun? “Kinds of Kindness” has already scandalized festival audiences and critics, and the average filmgoer will shrink from it in disgust or ignore it altogether. That’s fine. If you can dial down your metabolism to appreciate a slow-paced art film, though, you can surely steep yourself in the cruel certainties of Lanthimos’s worldview, where human beings are prisoners of their lifelong need for love and acceptance and where we’re all much closer to the animal kingdom than we care to admit. (There’s a between-chapters amuse-bouche of dogs behaving like people that deserves to be its own movie.)

The film is overlong, yet it exerts an intractable pull. Stone may get all the attention — she reprises her headlong dance routine from “Poor Things,” this time as a grim triumph in a parking lot — but with his sandy, anonymous mustache and eyes fixed on the middle distance, Plemons is the movie’s anxious soul.

Watching “Kinds of Kindness,” I thought more than once of the Bertolt Brecht poem that includes the line, “He who laughs has not yet heard the terrible news.” Lanthimos and his company still dare to find a bracing, disconsolate farce in our brief and helpless thrashing through life. For that, most people will never forgive them.

R. At area theaters. Contains strong, disturbing, violent content; strong sexual content; full nudity; and language. 164 minutes.

Ty Burr is the author of the movie recommendation newsletter Ty Burr’s Watch List at

Review | ‘Kinds of Kindness’: A trilogy of twisted tales from Yorgos Lanthimos (2024)


Review | ‘Kinds of Kindness’: A trilogy of twisted tales from Yorgos Lanthimos? ›

If you can dial down your metabolism to appreciate a slow-paced art film, though, you can surely steep yourself in the cruel certainties of Lanthimos's worldview, where human beings are prisoners of their lifelong need for love and acceptance and where we're all much closer to the animal kingdom than we care to admit.

Why is Kinds of Kindness rated R? ›

As such, it simply won't fit the tastes of some folks. Poor things. “Kinds of Kindness” is rated R for strong/disturbing violent content, strong sexual content, full nudity and language.

Is Kinds of Kindness a comedy? ›

Peter Paras reviews the absurdly funny Kinds of Kindness from director Yorgos Lanthimos, who equips his cruel comedy epic with a game cast and more.

Is Kinds of Kindness scary? ›

Kinds of Kindness is an extremely dark, extremely funny horror-comedy that will certainly alienate audiences looking for a light romp. But horror fans will have a great time with this anthology-style film.

What is the film Kinds of Kindness about? ›

Is Kinds of Kindness gory? ›

Violence & Gore (11)

Several scenes of self-harm and suicide with strong graphic gory detail as well as a scene of rape with thrusting. A disturbing scene of forced animal violence where a character purposely injures a dog. A man is shot through the hand and his hand gets covered in blood as he panics.

Why is kindness underrated? ›

Kindness is good and fine, but it's also not regarded as especially courageous, important, or influential. We live in a culture that values all that is noticeable. We care about prominence. We cherish tenacity.

Is Kinds of Kindness a sequel to Poor Things? ›

Freak of nature Yorgos Lanthimos returns less than a year after the release of “Poor Things” with his wildest and weirdest film yet. “Kinds of Kindness” is an anthological journey of three different stories, all pertaining to some degree the themes of loyalty, abuse and faith.

What virtue does kindness fall under? ›

Which virtue is this strength? Kindness is a strength within the virtue category of humanity, one of six virtues that subcategorize the 24 strengths. Humanity describes strengths that manifest in caring relationships with others.

What are the 4 types of kindness? ›

Another paper in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology gives further breakdowns: kin kindness, or being kind to your family; mutualism, or being kind to members of your community; reciprocal altruism, or being kind to those you'll meet again; and competitive altruism: being kind to others when it enhances your ...

Is there a negative side of kindness? ›

You also may end up feeling unappreciated and may even start to build a means of resentment too. But of course, do feel free to be nice for there is never too much of that going about, but also do be sure to take care of yourself and to have a means of boundaries so that you could protect yourself from bad people.

Is kindness good or bad? ›

Acts of kindness can make the world a happier place for everyone. They can boost feelings of confidence, being in control, happiness and optimism. They may also encourage others to repeat the good deeds they've experienced themselves – contributing to a more positive community.

What is the danger of kindness? ›

If you hold kindness as the best response in all situations, people can take advantage of you. All they have to do is ply you with guilt for being unkind, uncaring, unloving, un-empathetic, uncompassionate, unsympathetic and uncharitable.

Is Kinds of Kindness an anthology? ›

Kinds of Kindness is a 2024 absurdist dark comedy anthology film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos from a screenplay he co-wrote with Efthimis Filippou. The film stars Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, Joe Alwyn, Mamoudou Athie, and Hunter Schafer.

How to be kind to others? ›

Seeking Kindness: 9 Ways to Show Kindness
  1. Focus on others. Kindness puts others at the center. ...
  2. Offer a helping hand. ...
  3. Be there to listen. ...
  4. Send care packages—no matter how small. ...
  5. Stay connected. ...
  6. Expect good things to happen and be a positive light. ...
  7. Smile at others. ...
  8. Compliment others.

Who wrote Kinds of Kindness? ›

KINDS OF KINDNESS was directed by Lanthimos, written by Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou, and stars Stone, Plemons, Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, Joe Alwyn, Mamoudou Athie, and Hunter Schafer.

Why is it rated R for? ›

It is a horror movie based on Stephen King's novel and is rated R for strong violence, language, and disturbing imagery. Due to the graphic and intense nature of the movie, it may not be suitable for children under 12 or 13.

What age is appropriate for rated R? ›

R: Restricted – under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

What is the thing rated R for? ›

The film contains a bloodbath when it comes to violence, as characters are shot, eaten, dismembered, etc. The film also contains unfortunate animal deaths with dogs, as none of them survive. The film also contains frequent swearing.

How high Why is it rated R? ›

There's a lot of drug talk, scenes that show college-age kids smoking weed, and some beer drinking. There is also a lot of sexually objectifying women, sexual innuendos and jokes, and mentions of oral sex. There is some brief nudity (bare breasts).


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