The work of Yorgos Lanthimos always attracts with unusual settings and plots, but at its core remains extremely human. The humanity in his works reaches almost to primitivism, and the truths that the director is trying to convey are somewhat banal. But this is no less important, while the imagery of his film language elevates the entire structure to a fundamentally new level. “The Poor Miserables” is Lanthimos’ new film, an idea he’s had in mind since 2009. We tell you in our review what the final result was.
Emma Stone’s acting, revealing new facets of her talent; a combination of grotesque and theatricality; a strong feminist message presented from an interesting angle
too much coverage of topics harms the integrity of the story (with the exception of the central plot line); Lanthimos can definitely do much better; specific humor
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Mark Ruffalo
Release year 2024
The plot of the film revolves around the girl Bella (Emma Stone). She committed suicide, but Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe) brought her back to life. However, Bella became like a newborn in terms of awareness. Now she has to learn again the whole truth about the world, the people around her and herself. At the same time, not the most benevolent individuals will want to take advantage of Bella’s position.
The plot of the film will certainly remind many of Mary Shelley’s famous novel “Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus.” A similar plot has been used in popular culture dozens, perhaps even hundreds of times. But the truth is somewhat more interesting. The film is based on the book of the same name by Alasdair Gray. Lanthimos knew the writer personally and had great respect for him. Gray died in 2019 at the age of 85. Therefore, the film should also be perceived as a kind of tribute to the author.
The director allows viewers to plunge into an avant-garde, eccentric journey that takes a lot from theatrical productions and, oddly enough, classic film adaptations of no less classic novels like Gone with the Wind.
The most obvious thing about this vector of cinema is its visual language. The costumes and sets here are perfectly chosen and deserve analysis on their own. After all, for example, Bella’s changing outfits demonstrate the girl’s personal growth and her inner experiences.
Watching Emma Stone as Bella here is a real pleasure. It’s as if the girl was able to discover new facets of her acting talent, so that the mental evolution of the main character feels as natural as possible.
A single image here combines a lot of thoughts, emotions, theses and statements. But they are all held together by Stone’s outstanding abilities, so Bella always remains whole.
A decent realization of the main character is incredibly important for local history. After all, through Bella, the film crew gives us a short tour of the ups and downs of human society. This cannot be called research or analysis, because the film lacks enough depth for this. Instead, Lanthimos chooses to walk through human vices and virtues, turning them into amazing, but still scenery.
Another important component of the film is the role of women in society and the development of civilization as a whole. And this storyline can already be called fundamental for cinema without any hesitation.
Bella’s relationships with other characters add up to a complex sociological portrait of a woman, her freedoms and aspirations. Don’t be fooled by the chosen Victorian era setting, because local truths are aimed at a completely modern viewer.
Lanthimos does not forget about his favorite grotesque, bordering on body horror. There are plenty of unpleasant, almost disgustingly disgusting scenes in The Poor Miserables. However, they successfully fit into the overall fabric of events due to the sublimity of the other elements.
Decadence here meets sophism and humanism, merging in amazing forms and cleverly playing with contrasts. And this is the case when such clever words are not at all ashamed to use to describe a movie.
There is also plenty of humor in the film. Here he is caustic, cynical, acutely social and noticeably vulgar, what is there to hide. The comedy component requires adaptation, which not every viewer will do, this is already obvious.
Perhaps because, at its core, film humor appeals to a somewhat specific category of audience. However, he received his well-deserved place, and all we can do is accept the rules that Lanthimos set.
At the same time, it cannot be said that Lanthimos’ new work became a revelation or a significant leap forward for him. Stone steals the whole show; it is the interaction between the actress and the director that becomes the main triumph of the film, with a clear advantage in favor of the former. The same “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” and “The Lobster” by Lanthimos were more captivating with their spirituality and aesthetics.
Part of the blame lies in the huge range of themes and events that the filmmaker tried to cover. But even if not everyone manages to reach their hearts when watching, the basis of the film does not suffer from this.
“The Poor Miserables” in its title refers not to the main character or all the other characters in the film, but to humanity as a whole. Which in itself is an interesting enough move to watch Lanthimos’ new work in the cinema. It, like the director’s other films, will not appeal to everyone. It will scare someone away, confuse others, and scare others to death. However, the emotions of the movie are very real, which is quite capable of “reviving” you – just like the protagonist.