Kinds of Kindness

Kinds of Kindness

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Yorgos Lanthimos is clearly back in the provocateur mode after the relatively “normal” visions of “The Favourite” and “Poor Things.” His latest film, however, follows more in line with his earlier and surreal films like those which were named above. Kinds of Kindness It also reunites him with Efthimis Filippou who co-wrote with him those movies as they have collaborated to present a discourse on control. How we always claim that we fight against it yet most of us return to it and it does not let us live rewarding lives so often.

‘Kinds of Kindness’ overflows with ideas, making one feel as if the project was three films that Lanthimos and his co-writer Filippou couldn’t expand into full-length features. Therefore, they apparently opted to squeeze them into an almost three-hour anthology. This means that talks about what connects these films might be unsatisfactory at times.

Yet they are undeniably bound together by Lanthimos’ control of tone which leaves no room for interpretation even during its downtime when there are walls that have been built around it. It’s interesting to think why anyone would ever want to do two (or in this case, three) movies and expect them to make one coherent work of art; probably because such projects resemble anthologies than they look like single pieces? Still, the audacity behind this endeavor saves the day while a cast once again on top form for a director who knows how to handle ensemble work.

The first short film within a film is kind of playful even from its title: “The Death of R.M.F.” One should be able to realize among many others whose initials stand for this monogram through some characters introductions so far; hence he/she may start wondering whom it refers off especially having met someone walking around with those initials on his chest.

He could be the one but then again Lanthimos likes to keep us on our toes, so that’s why our protagonist is named Robert Fletcher (Jesse Plemons), Kinds of Kindness a corporate stooge who capitulates to all of his boss’ commands, Raymond (Willem Dafoe). As usual in case of Lanthimos projects, the filmmaker brings together a relatable idea then pushes it into stage like extremes to get his point across. Your boss is controlling you and you don’t know? Almost every moment in Robert’s day is dictated by Raymond including when he eats or makes love with his wife Sarah (Hong Chau). He has even forced Robert to drug his wife so that she can miscarry because such an act would distract him from work. Nonetheless, Raymond’s most recent command which is killing someone whose initials are R.M.F., makes everything collapse for him.

The moment Robert tries to reject the charge of first degree murder, things become difficult for him, despite Raymond’s insistence that the victim is a willing participant. When Raymond stands up for himself, everything comes down crashing on him and he fears being replaced in the corporate machine and struggling to reestablish himself as one of its cogs.

Kinds of Kindness Plemons is amazing here, communicating an adult fear born out of very little control over a life lived while facing huge change. Plemons brings Lanthimos and Filippou’s vision down to earth through a series of emotions that are both relatable and intense, making “The Death of R.M.F.” The most effective episode in the trilogy. It also serves as an anchor for the rest of the thematic line: control and loss thereof. It’s no coincidence that Robert and Sarah have John McEnroe’s broke tennis rackets or Ayrton Senna’s helmet—relics from lost moments.

In “R.M.F. is Flying,” the middle chapter (and perhaps somewhat confused), this theme gets further developed by Plemons playing Daniel- someone who seems to be initially succumbing into grief following his wife (Emma Stone) vanishing at sea during a helicopter crash. He has messed up his police work by becoming obsessed with finding her, even though it has completely spoiled his friendships.

However, he does not look happy after she suddenly appears back home; instead he rapidly convinces himself that this woman now standing at his door does not bear any resemblance to his dead partner at all. Daniel keeps asking her how she can prove her identity while leading her towards more extreme acts, including some that can only be considered as terrible crimes against humanity. Although “R.M.F. is Flying” might be less thematically fertile or narratively satisfying than the other two films but one thing remains clear about Plemons though.

Lastly, there’s dense sandwich eating scene in “R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich” that fans will argue sums up everything else in terms of the elimination of autonomy—first, the controlling boss; second, the imposter and now a cult dedicated to reversing death. Emily (Stone) and Andrew (Plemons) are members of this cult headed by Omi (Dafoe) and his partner Aka (Chau), whose goal is to identify an unknown female capable of resurrecting the dead.

When she stumbles across a stranger who has been appearing in her dreams named Rebecca (Margaret Qualley), Emily becomes obsessed with proving it’s her. However, she’s drawn back into her old life complete with an abusive husband (Joe Alwyn) and a daughter. Still, the whole point about cults is control, making them Lanthimos’ playground at its most bizarrely unsettling place ever.

Though it is a text that can be dissected in essays and conversations at coffee shops, one gets the feeling that some of his better movies had more thought put into how they fit together than this one. Plemons single handedly makes “Kinds of Kindness” seem coherent with two, maybe three of the best performances in any given year. However, I wondered if there wasn’t an earlier version of this film, from before Lanthimos was the legend and Oscar nominee he is now, which may have been stronger for being that little bit less completely free. No one deserves power over him. But is this always true?

He will likely follow up on those Oscars for his last two flicks with a return to such prestige filmmaking perhaps making “Kinds of Kindness” just one brief interruption in what I’m guessing will be a career full of celebrated works. If it ends up meaning nothing to his catalog it does show how un-panicked Lanthimos was willing to be as he stayed true to his own curiosity regardless of whether or not anybody else could hang with it.

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