Poor Things

Directed By Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring – Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe

The Plot – The incredible tale and fantastical evolution of Bella Baxter (Stone), a young woman brought back to life by the brilliant and unorthodox scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter (Dafoe). Under Baxter’s protection, Bella is eager to learn. Hungry for the worldliness she is lacking, Bella runs off with Duncan Wedderburn (Ruffalo), a slick and debauched lawyer, on a whirlwind adventure across the continents. Free from the prejudices of her times, Bella grows steadfast in her purpose to stand for equality and liberation.

Rated R for strong and pervasive sexual content, graphic nudity, disturbing material, gore, and adult language

POOR THINGS | Official Trailer | Searchlight Pictures (youtube.com)


In the same vein as David Lynch, Lanthimos has once more conjured a world that is both beautiful and strange in his artistic vision, in what is easily his most ambitious production to date, but ironically one of his easier accessible films thematically, which audiences can effortlessly interpret. Call this a perk of seeing life through the eyes of Bella Baxter, whose childlike innocence and situational naivety leads to some uncomfortably hilarious exploits in the depths of deconstructing sociatal norms, embracing sexuality and gender dynamics, all with screenwriter Tony McNamara taking full advantage in every inch of the R-rating that utilizes sex and nudity with purpose, for a refreshing change. Even though the film revolves around a female character, it’s the males who seem most up for discussion, with the trio of Ruffalo, Dafoe and Youssef each conveying some varying degree of ownership to Bella, harmless or otherwise, which she feverishly tries to evade. This doesn’t necessarily take the focus away from Bella’s coming of age tale, but rather enhance it, teaching her tons about the psychologies of the opposite sex, while vividly illustrating what about her own wants and needs that she finds in each of them. The laughs are aplenty, with the silliness and chaotic that work masterfully with Lanthimos’ sleekly surreal presentation, but the commentary pulled from so many eye-opening engagements is most brilliant, using the lack of filter from a child’s perspective to bring light and humility towards so many touchy and sensitive subjects, with thought-provoking conversations between characters that even after nearly two-and-a-half hours I couldn’t get enough of. Lanthimos’ approach to presentation feels other-worldly, with ambitiously experimental framing uses of cinematography, vintage color grading and LED screen backdrops that afford us breathtaking contrasts to the dynamics of the many lands within the film, but with a fresly futuristic consistency that could easily serve as Bella’s eye-popping entrance into the world that she’s never known, especially with colorless sequencing during the movie’s initial scenes, which effortlessly reflect the lack of color in newborn eyes. With Bella’s ever-changing understanding of the world, the various color schemes of the backdrops change with her, vibrantly accentuating influence in ways that feels surreal in the depths of reality, but poetic in the way the many environmental elements fleshed out fantastically from Lanthimos feeds into the mentality of his cherished protagonist. Bella is of course performed exceptionally by Stone, who feels primed to steal her second Oscar from Lily Gladstone’s cold hands, with a turn that is every bit raw as it is expansive. Because Stone is portraying an evolving adolescent in mentality, her approach to the character feels like five performances for the price of one, with deviations in speech and walking patterns that not only convey the depth in approach that she brought to the character’s growing intelligence in her interaction with life, but also a bubbly adventurous spirit in personality that made Bella easily my single favorite character of the entire cinematic year. In addition to Stone, she’s joined by masterful turns from Willem Dafoe, Remy Youssef, Christopher Abbott, and an attention-stealing turn from Mark Ruffalo, who sheds the conventions of familiarity for an emotional transformation that will keep you from ever seeing him the same way again. As to where Stone and Youssef carry a bond built on admiration, Stone and Ruffalo’s dynamic is ultimately and unfortunately defined by lust, which with it brings some unforeseen challenges in foundation building between them that speaks volumes to Bella’s own evolving autonomy throughout her long-distance journey of self-discovery. Lastly, while the film and its accommodating trailers did give away more vital imagery than I would’ve liked, I can happily state that the film and its odyssey didn’t go in the patterns that I ever necessarily expected, capping off a few surprise shifts in direction that, with the balance of aforementioned hypnotic presentation, masterful performances and shock humor of the most necessary variety, manages to constantly succeed what could be your preconceived monumental expectations. For me, knowing my history with “Frankenstein” a movie that Lanthimos homages here on more than once reflective occasion, I didn’t always expect the silver linings in a cruel and unforgiving world, but with knowledge comes overcoming power, and ultimately it’s nature that beckons Bella to become this unforeseen force that dominates the many rooms and worlds she’s pushed to embrace, leading to what I easily commend as the single greatest character transformation that I have seen on film in a very long time.


Even one of the year’s best films, with so much going for it, can’t evade momentary lapses in judgements of its focus, which occasionally trails by the wayside of imbalance between two respective arcs. In the depths of overabundance, I wish the film’s second act didn’t cut back as frequently to the doctorly duo of Dafoe and Youssef, whose arcs have been mostly resolved with Bella during the opening act. I can understand checking in on these characters to enact the bigger picture within Bella’s transformation and her laboratory origins compared to where she resides during one of the many transitions away from her, but I think it happens so frequently that it actually distracts away from the heart of the exploration, leaving too much time away from Bella as a result. Where it could’ve instead donated that allowance in time is with an emerging third character and conflict that completely comes out of nowhere, then resolves itself with the velocity of a hurricane. What’s worse is that this arc is an integral part of Bella’s origins, so including it is a necessity, but it feels entirely too rushed and unrealized to bring the kind of thorough impact that it rightfully deserved, instead feeling like a last second add-on to a film already rich with so much conflict.

“Poor Things” is a spectacularly bizarre and wildly unforgettable frolic into self-creation that radicalizes the hero’s odyssey. With visionary delight across a psychosexual consistency, tonal impulses that emphasize the spontaneities of the human condition, and a career-best performance from Stone that is the gravity that everyone and everything orbits around, Lanthimos brilliantly assembles all of the pieces to the year’s most daringly decorated concept, and one that people will be talking about for years to come.

My Grade: 9/10 or A

2 thoughts on “Poor Things

  1. So it appears the hype is real! Bummer ha ha! I am in the bucket of not being a fan of Yorgos. I really want to like his films but it hasn’t worked out yet. This sounds like there’s a chance I could like it as you said it was, “one of his easier accessible films thematically”. And to hear Emma Stone has a real chance of snatching Best Actress AWAY from Lily Gladstone hurts my soul because I was floored by Lily’s performance! Agh! I will obviously check this out and your review put me at ease that this could land high on my impressions and possibly my favorite Yorgos film to date. Thank you!

  2. So I finally saw it and I thought for a while about this, but I can confidently say that this is my favorite movie of the year and it was invigorating to finally read your expertly written thoughts. I particularly want to give you high praise for your discussion for Emma Stone who I genuinely hope wins best actress at this point, because she was phenomenal in the film. Not to mention the borderline NC-17 content you discussed that had me frequently howling with laughter while still appreciating the deeper and subtler commentary under the service. It feels so good to see something that can shake my best of the year list just over a week away before the end of the year. Loved the movie and loved your review! Exceptional review!

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