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Emma Stone and Margaret Qualley in Yorgos Lanthimos' Kinds of Kindness
Image via Searchlight Pictures

‘Kinds of Kindness’ endings explained: what is Yorgos Lanthimos’ anthology about?

Yorgo Lanthimos' latest movie is even more obscure and surrealist than his previous work.

Yorgos Lanthimos is famous for crafting surreal movies filled with puzzling allegories. Still, even fans of Poor Things and The Favorite might have trouble understanding Kinds of Kindness.

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Starring heavy hitters like Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, and Willem Dafoe, Kinds of Kindness tells three seemingly unrelated stories. Each segment of Lanthimos’ intriguing anthology gives new roles to its actors, who change their body language and way of speaking to bring vastly different people to life. It’s an amazing cinematic achievement, but the nature of the stories makes it hard to understand what exactly everything means.

Lanthimos’ absurdist style is more concerned with weaving themes and exploring the human psyche than telling straightforward stories. Plus, from cult leaders to cannibals, the filmmaker’s morbid humor can get particularly disturbing sometimes, adding another layer of confusion to the plot. But what Kinds of Kindness wants to say? And what does the ending of each story tell us about Lanthimos’ latest movie?

What’s “The Death of R.M.F.” about?

Jesse Plemons in Yorgos Lanthimos' Kinds of Kindness
Image via Searchlight Pictures

The first segment of Kinds of Kindness, “The Death of R.M.F.,” explores the abusive relationship between a man and his boss. The story follows Robert (Plemons), a white-collar worker who answers to a demanding businessman, Raymond (Dafoe). Raymond’s words towards Robert are always kind, and the boss frequently sends expensive gifts to his employee. However, behind this gentle façade hides an abusive person who enjoys manipulating everyone around him.

While moral harassment is unfortunately quite common in the work environment, Lanthimos takes Raymond and Robert’s relationship to its illogical extreme, showing how the company owner controls every aspect of his subaltern’s life. Robert has to follow a strict diet and sleep schedule, and he can only have intercourse on the days and times Raymond tells him to. In fact, Raymond has guided every step of Robert’s life for ten years, choosing his house, car, career path, and even wife. For a decade, Robert obliged Raymond’s desires to the point where he doesn’t even have an identity of his own.

While Robert has been nothing but a faithful servant, he refuses Raymond’s request to cause a traffic accident that would kill another man. Once he makes a choice that contradicts Raymond’s plans, Robert is pushed aside. As days go by, Robert loses everything Raymond ever gave him and also fails to take the reins over his life.

At the end of the first Kinds of Kindness story, Robert finds out the woman he has been flirting with (Stone) is also being controlled by Raymond. She also did what was asked of her and caused a gruesome car crash. The driver of the car she railed, R.M.F. (Yorgos Stefanakos), survived, being taken to the hospital in critical condition. Realizing he is incapable of living by himself, Robert decides to kidnap R.M.F., take him to the hospital’s parking lot, and drive over the poor man, killing him. Raymond accepts Robert’s actions as an apology, welcoming his employee back under his wings.

Willem Dafoe, Jesse Plemons, and Margaret Qualley in Yorgos Lanthimos' Kinds of Kindness
Image via Searchlight Pictures

“The Death of R.M.F.” has an anticlimactic ending that echoes the themes Lanthimos evokes in the story. The first chapter of Kinds of Kindness explores how kindness can be perverted as a weapon of control by those in power. The story also investigates how abusive relationships can offer some sort of comfort for the abused, who trade their autonomy in exchange for having someone else navigate the chaotic twists and turns of existence in his place. 

Raymond and Robert have a cruel relationship, for sure. Still, in the end, Robert has been locked in abuse for so long that he doesn’t feel comfortable in freedom. Kindness can ensnare human beings into vicious relationships, which is an idea that will repeat itself in the movie’s following stories.

What’s “R.M.F. Is Flying” about?

In the second segment of Kinds of Kindness, Plemons plays the role of Daniel, a police officer struggling with the vanishing of his wife, Liz (Stone). Liz is a marine biologist lost after her boat is caught in a storm, washing its entire crew into a desert island. When hope seems lost, she is found.

Liz is one of two survivors of the terrible accident, and her return home should be a reason to celebrate. However, as days pass, Daniel begins to harbor suspicion that the woman who came back home is not Liz but an imposter. Before the accident, Liz didn’t like chocolate, but she devours a chocolate cake when she leaves the hospital. She also seems to have forgotten Daniel’s favorite song, and her feet are too big for her shoes.

Until Liz is found, Daniel is in absolute agony, missing the woman he loves. Nevertheless, when Liz is there, he starts to nurture a grudge against the supposed usurper who took his wife’s place. As Daniel descends into madness, he demands more significant proof of the fake Liz’s love for him. In the name of kindness, Liz complies with Daniel’s twisted commands, chopping pieces of herself to feed him. 

At the end of the story, the new Liz rips out her liver, dying. As soon as she’s dead, the doorbell rings. Daniel opens the door and greets the original Liz. It seems that Daniel was right and that the dead woman was an imposter, after all. However, many more thematic layers are hidden in Kinds of Kindness’ second segment.

The first story of Kinds of Kindness is a surrealist take on abusive work relationships. Similarly, “R.M.F. Is Flying” applies the same unnerving logic to romantic relationships. Daniel is an abusive partner who loves an idea more than a physical person, which is why he cannot accept that the traumatic event Liz went through might have changed her. The real Liz is no longer equal to the Liz he made up as the perfect woman, so she must be brutalized and destroyed so Daniel can reconcile himself with the imaginary version of his wife.

There’s also the matter of cannibalism. It is hinted that Liz survived so long in a desolate place by ingesting the flesh of her dead coworkers. When the need for survival emerges, all traces of kindness evaporate, giving place to human’s most primal instincts. Likewise, Daniel goes into survival mode when the idealized version of his wife and relationship is threatened. He develops a taste for human flesh, wanting the fake Liz to sacrifice her flesh and be consumed so his fantasy can keep on living.

What’s “R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich” about?

Willem Dafoe, Jesse Plemons, and Hong Chau in Yorgos Lanthimos' Kinds of Kindness
Image via Searchlight Pictures

In the final segment of Kinds of Kindness, “R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich,” Plemons plays Andrews and Stone plays Emily, two cultists tasked with finding the messiah of their faith. The story explores the strange beliefs of the cult led by Omi (Dafoe) and Aka (Hong Chau). Omi and Aka tell their followers that liquids and fluids found in the world are corrupted, which is why cultists are only allowed to drink water purified by their leader’s tears. Plus, the cultists can only have sex with Omi and Aka, whose bodily fluids are pure, contrary to everyone else’s.

Instead of work or romantic relationships, Kinds of Kindness’s third story explores the abuses committed in the name of faith and community. Omi and Aka treat their followers with kindness, and offer all of them the possibility to connect to a bigger truth. However, this connection comes at a high price, as cultists must abandon their family and friends, pledging loyalty to Omi and Aka alone. The cruelty of it all is disguised by the smiles and warm embrace of the cult leaders.

In the story, Emily struggles to let go of her daughter (Merah Benoit). While on the field, looking for the messiah, Emily often sneaks into her old home to leave her daughter’s presents. Eventually, Emily agrees to have a drink with her ex-husband, Joseph (Joe Alwyn), who drugs and rapes her. When she goes back to her cult, Emily is deemed responsible for the horrible incident and expelled from her community. Yes, the cult, in its kindness, blames the victim for her rape, a violent verdict that nevertheless reflects how religion treats women in the real world.

Emily gave everything to a community that shunned her for the most horrible reason. Still, her despair leads her to keep looking for the Messiah. She eventually finds her, Ruth (Margaret Qualley), a woman who can resurrect the dead. Unfortunately for Emily, her careless driving causes an accident that kills Ruth, destroying the only thing that could buy her way back into the cult. It’s a hilarious ending that reflects Lanthimos’ love for dark humor, and underlines that Lanthimos doesn’t want the cult to have a happy ending. They genuinely don’t deserve it after showing their true colors after Emily’s rape.

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Marco Vito Oddo
Marco Vito Oddo is a writer, journalist, and amateur game designer. Passionate about superhero comic books, horror films, and indie games, he has his byline added to portals such as We Got This Covered, The Gamer, and Collider. When he's not working, Marco Vito is gaming, spending time with his dog, or writing fiction. Currently, he's working on a comic book project named Otherkin.