Yorgos Lanthimos does not want a break. 

Only months after releasing his Fraken-fantasy Poor Things, which picked up a slew of Oscars including Best Actress and Best Costume for Holly Waddington, he’s premiering a new film at the Cannes Film Festival. 

Kinds of Kindness is a return to the bold, aggressive weirdness of Lanthimos’ earlier films. It marks a reunion with his frequent collaborator, Greek screenwriter Efthymis Filippou, who co-wrote Dogtooth, Alps, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer

An ensemble of actors, including a small Poor Things reunion for Emma Stone, Margaret Qualley and Willem Dafoe, newcomers to the fold Jesse Plemons and Hong Chau, and a cameo by Euphoria’s Hunter Schaefer, as a treat. 

They act as an ensemble, each playing a different character in each of the film’s three segments. In “The Death of R.M.F,” Plemons is a submissive man whose entire life, from his food intake to the timing of his bowel movements, are under strict instruction of his boss Robert, played by Defoe. The second segment, “R.M.F. is Flying,” has Plemons convinced that his wife, played by Stone, recently rescued from a shipwreck, is actually an imposter. Stone leads the third and last installment in the anthology, “R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich,” where she plays a woman who abandons her husband (Joe Alwyn) and young daughter to join a water-obsessed cult determined to find their necromancing promised leader. 

There is no polite way of putting this: all three segments are batshit. It’s an elevated absurdism that’s become a signature style of Lanthimos’. The structure itself will prove a challenging watch for some viewers. Moving from one story of extremes to another requires a rapid reconfiguration of your expectations, thrice over. And, not all segments are equally successful (““R.M.F. is flying” could have used a trim without losing its potency). The ensemble cast are so eminently committed to the bit, though, it is hard not to be charmed by how doggedly their characters try to make sense of their nonsensical reality (one scene has one character demand from another that they cut off their finger and serve it with some roasted cauliflower). Lanthimos casts actors who can move effortlessly between kooky and creepy, like Plemons and Dafoe. Although Hong Chau, consistently the best thing in anything she’s in, feels underused. 

An anthology film is a hard trick to pull off, even when dealing with artisans and artists of the highest level. Audiences might bristle at the runtime (over 2 and a half hours) or the sudden bursts of extreme violence (see above: chopped finger). Kinds of Kindness is interested in compliance. Amongst the chaos of each segment are characters who resolutely want to exist in the boxes they are provided, or seek out another box that might fit better. Even in their oddness, they are fearful creatures looking for security and guidance. 

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