Kinds of Kindness Review

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Kinds of Kindness is a mixed bag, which is often the case with anthology films. Yorgos Lanthimos directs a trilogy of stories loosely tied together. All three have their merits, which is more than can be said about some anthologies. Yet, none reach their full potential due to the run time. Few will describe Kinds of Kindness as too short, clocking in at 165 minutes overall. To fully flesh out some of these ideas and characters, though, each segment could’ve used a little more breathing room. Rather than a feature, Kinds of Kindness might’ve worked better as a TV anthology like Small Axe or Black Mirror. Yet, for Lanthimos’ fans, it’s hard not to admire the final product.

The first segment, The Death of R.M.F., feels the most complete. Jesse Plemons continues his string of memorable performances as Robert, a yes-man whose life has been mapped out by his calculating employer Raymond (Willem Dafoe). Robert is willing to crash his car for Raymond, although killing the other driver is a step too far for him. With this act of “insubordination,” Raymond virtually undoes Robert’s life in a snap. He allows him to keep certain perks like his fancy house, but Raymond’s approval is more valuable than anything to Robert’s name. It’s a perverse yet darkly humorous commentary on how far someone will go to please their puppet master. Even when the strings are severed, free will is an illusion.

The story comes close to greatness if only the ending wasn’t so rushed. Not as rushed as the second segment, however. In R.M.F. is Flying, Plemons returns as Daniel, whose wife Liz (Emma Stone) is lost at sea. When Liz is recovered, she’s not as Daniel remembers her. The audience may think they know where this story is going, although it throws several curveballs. While Lanthimos is known for keeping his audience on their toes, many of the twists here just come off as random, building to a conclusion that leaves the viewer wanting more. Nevertheless, the performances from Plemons and Stone elevate the segment, which also contains the funniest moment in the film. Let’s just say, it involves a videotape that subverts expectations in the best way.

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Finally, there’s R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich, which centers on a cult searching for a woman who can resurrect the dead. Stone is the MVP here as Emily, who abandoned her family to join this cult. While their beliefs make little sense, the messiah Emily is searching for might be within reach. Although the segment cleverly connects several dots, it can feel as if scenes are missing. At the same time, some scenes in the finished film could’ve been cut to make for a more cohesive experience. The film doesn’t need to be wrapped up in a tidy package, but a few items inevitably get lost during shipping.

At this point, you might be wondering who R.M.F. is. He’s a minor yet essential player in each story, although we learn little about him. While aspects of the film could’ve benefitted from further exploration, R.M.F. strangely isn’t one of them. Sometimes, the less you know, the better. In this case, Kinds of Kindness is sure to inspire conversations about R.M.F.’s identity and what his presence represents. Whatever your theory is, it makes each story more compelling when looking at the big picture. As a whole, Kinds of Kindness is always intriguing and just satisfying enough.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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