In Kinds of Kindness, Yorgos Lanthimos lets loose as he examines the nature of control. And yet, that doesn't mean his oddball anthology starring Emma Stone and Jesse Plemons is about to go easy on you. Read on for our full review of Kinds of Kindness.

Kinds of Kindness review

Emma Stone, Yorgos Lanthimos.
A behind-the-scenes still from Kinds of Kindness courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

Lanthimos' follow-up to Poor Things is a three-part anthology, starring Stone (fresh off an Oscar for Bella Baxter), Plemons (named best actor at Cannes), Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, Mamoudou Athie, and Joe Alwyn. The same cast largely features in each section as different characters.

The relatively lugubrious vignettes are connected by a mysterious figure named D.M.F (Yorgos Stefanakos) whom we little nothing about, yet is tangibly involved in each episode. Thematically, the stories coalesce around a subject Lanthimos has oft-interrogated: When do we want power, and when do we want to be bossed around?

The first (and strongest) episode, “The Death of R.M.F.” stars Plemons (eerie, wry, and dialed-in) as Robert, going about his life in a Truman Show-esque existence. Every movement in Robert's daily life is programmed by the demands of a billionaire-type mentor (Defoe) — ranging from mundane and innocuous to increasingly dark.

In “R.M.F. is Flying,” Plemons swaps the hipster mustache and lush purple turtleneck for a clean-shaven police officer (Daniel). After his wife (played by Stone, ultra-game throughout) returns after being lost at sea and begins to exhibit slightly off-kilter behavior, Daniel questions whether she's an imposter. He initiates a series of bizarre, bloody tests, hoping to find out.

Stone takes the lead in the final installment, “R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich” — the longest and least rewarding — as a cult member who experiences a disturbing assault. The fable also involves efforts by her and her husband (Plemons) to track down a woman (Qualley) whom they hope can revive corpses.

Should you watch Kinds of Kindness?

Margaret Qualley, Jesse PPlemons, and Willem Dafoe in Kinds of Kindness.
A still from Kinds of Kindness courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

As with anthologies (see: Martin Scorsese's entry in New York Stories), Kinds of Kindness is more satisfying as an experiment in craft. Lanthimos, after conceiving highly stylized and hyper-specific milieus in the more accessible (and awards-friendly) The Favourite and Poor Things, is back in sandbox mode.

Kinds of Kindness shape-shifts between '70s surrealist thriller, raunchy suburban drama, and jet-black comedy. As usual, Lanthimos derives perverse, though often deadpanned, comedy from the absurdist and grotesque. Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou's script greatly benefits from its stars' innate understanding of the fluid tone and comedic beats of each scene. Jesse Plemons is blankly funny; Emma Stone is more physical.

Yorgos Lanthimos relishes exploring the spectrum of human behavior by depicting the twisted desires on the edges, plus some of that stuff in-between (you know; warmth, love, longing).

Kinds of Kindness will test viewers' patience with its pace and profundity. It'll be off-putting to many, gross to all, and hilarious to others. It'll bore, bewilder, nauseate, and certainly confuse — often simultaneously. Perhaps that's the point.

Grade: B

Kinds of Kindness is in theaters.