Poor Things (2023)

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

Brought back to life by an unorthodox scientist, a young woman runs off with a lawyer on a whirlwind adventure across the continents. Free from the prejudices of her times, she grows steadfast in her purpose to stand for equality and liberation.

Cambridge Film Festival 2023: Film #17

Which wave of feminism is this again? Lots to like, but also lots to quibble with here. «Formidable», perhaps, but whilst the social satire is more surface-level than Lanthimos' previous work, it seems to have come at the expense of the interesting ambiguity in those earlier films. Similarly, although Poor Things can be shockingly funny at times, it relies too much on some of its jokes to generate laughs that were then subject to severe diminishing returns, especially the repeated tic of using posh language followed by the word "fuck". The kinda 'steampunk Gaudi' aesthetic was intriguingly surreal as well, yet it was curiously unexplained in a film that seemed to need to explain everything else. Anyway, it was a brave move to write another 'adolescent and inexperienced girl brain in the body of a sexually mature woman' in the mould of Lolita (or perhaps even Olympia from Tales of Hoffman...), and indeed it was a little uncomfortable that the film seemed to endorse this angle in parts, if only to gross out other characters.


Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo), tries to manipulate and emotionally abuse her. Bella’s simple refusal to acknowledge his attempt at wielding power over her carries the tough double duty of showing her strength and revealing the lengths that men will go to in order to possess women, but Ruffalo’s buffoon isn’t scary so much as he is more babyish than Bella. […] Even when Swiney (Kathryn Hunter), the madame of a Paris brothel where Bella begins to work at, bites our heroine’s earlobes, the real tension that exists between the two is downplayed. Is it too terrifying even for Lanthimos and McNamara to fathom the unpleasantness of the relationship between a predatory boss and a compliant employee? […] Poor Things relies nearly entirely on comedy with little real pathos, it makes all of the “furious jumping” that Bella likes to indulge in and the film’s cutesy humanist riffing feel a little, if not insincere, then at least hard to fully believe.

Kyle Turner (Slant)


[An] edgy yet politically correct fable of a Sleeping Beauty who gets woke. On those terms, the film is both a success and a failure—a notably ambitious, memorably stylized compendium of self-consciously outrageous images and one-liners that ultimately flatters its audience’s prejudices when it should be testing them. […] Stone’s brilliance is an example of an actress in full control of her instrument, but as a piece of filmmaking, Poor Things is somewhat less harmonious—the atonal score […], while effective on its own terms, gradually becomes an emblem of Lanthimos’s jarring, ever more laborious sense of provocation.

Adam Nayman (The Ringer)


She wears bolero jackets, ruffly blouses, sheer skirts, and futuristic evening dresses, always accented with enormously puffed sleeves. The word “balloon” would not do her sleeves justice. They are airships, zeppelins of fabric, fanciful and architectural, that make her seem regal and alien and like a child playing dress-up. It’s like she’s constantly walking around with a wedding cake whorled around her shoulders.

Christine Smallwood (New York Review of Books)