Kinds of Kindness review: "Yorgos Lanthimos' hollow film feels like a test for audiences"

Kinds of Kindness
(Image: © Searchlight)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Lanthimos returns to his bleak roots, but this hollow film lacks the appeal of the likes of The Favourite.

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Kinds of Kindness had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. Here's our review...

Hot on the heels of the Oscar-winning Poor Things, Yorgos Lanthimos has delivered another eccentric feature with Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe and Margaret Qualley. But aside from a liberal sprinkling of sex, the similarities end there. 

Rather than working with writer Tony McNamara (Poor Things, The Favourite), this sees Lanthimos reteaming with scripter Efthymis Filippou, his collaborator on Dogtooth, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. So we already know to expect something darker and more surreal. And boy, do we get it…

Split into three parts, Kinds of Kindness sees Jesse Plemons in three roles: as a dutiful man going to extreme lengths to please his wealthy funder (Dafoe); as a policeman suspicious that his wife (Stone) isn’t really his wife at all; and as a member of a sex cult looking for a woman who can resurrect the dead. Hong Chau and Dafoe play the leaders of the cult, who also have an obsession with water and tears.

All the set-ups are intriguing, and wouldn’t look out of place in the twist-driven series The Twilight Zone, which may or may not be an inspiration, along with the works of Franz Kafka. But the tone is so bleak, the dialogue so off-kilter (even for Lanthimos), that it’s hard to enjoy the film in between its comical moments. You might care to see this as an allegory about power, sex and control, but it doesn’t feel like it’s saying anything particularly profound. 

Bolstered by the likes of Joe Alwyn and Mamoudou Athie, the central cast, who all appear in each segment, are terrific actors. The costumes and styling are also fun to keep track of – Plemons starts out looking like a young Philip Seymour Hoffman and ends up more John Malkovich. 

But many of the cast are underused at best, and objectified at worst – this isn’t just misanthropic; it feels misogynistic at times. Passive female nudity is a frequent feature – whether it’s Emma Stone measuring someone’s breasts to see if they are the chosen one, or a woman unconscious in a sauna, where she’s been put for a test. The film itself feels like a test for audiences – a dare to see if they will run with it. Many of the press in Cannes have, but mainstream audiences might find this harder to endure.

Kinds of Kindness is released in US theaters on June 21 and in UK cinemas on June 28. 

For more reviews from Cannes 2024, read our Megalopolis review, Bird review, and our Furiosa review.