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  • Gareth Crook

Poor Things (2023) - 9/10

From the very first frame you can tell that Yorgos Lanthimos is going to take you on a fantastic ride. Bella Baxter (Emma Stone) is in the care of mad scientist Goodwin (Willem Dafoe). We meet them in opulent black and white surreal surroundings, half shot with a fish eye lens. When I say surreal I mean literally as a dog with a ducks head follows Bella around the house. Goodwin likes putting things back together. Bella likes breaking them. She’s learning you see. A young woman, she’s the mental capacity of a toddler. Goodwin is loving, if not always responsible, a product of his tortured childhood, his understanding of love is somewhat… altered. Max (Ramy Youssef) an eager student in Goodwin’s macabre surgical classes is invited to help on a project, Bella. Despite its grotesque Victoriana, it’s sweet. Bella, innocent and fearless, is trying to find her way. It’s quite a story and wastes no time. Goodwins controlled world for Bella is complex and a little terrifying. She’s an experiment and Max doesn’t really approve. Especially when he learns of how Bella monstrously came to be. Never the less, Max falls for Bella, which complicates things with the arrival of Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo). He’s not a nice bloke, but he offers freedom and Bella is hell bent on grabbing it. The men here are the poor things. They underestimate Bella’s veracious capacity and curiosity for life and life in a Lanthimos film offers much to be curious of. Every frame is packed with metaphor and mystery. I feel like I could watch this ten times over back to back and still find something different each time. As Bella explores, her world is saturated with colour in hyper fantastic scenes that explode from the screen in much the way Bella does. She has no filter, acts on pure instinct. Loves the things she likes, cares little for those she doesn’t, like a crying child in a restaurant, “I must go punch that baby”. Witty, satirical, bloody hilarious. It’s easy to enjoy, but you have to embrace it. It’s a decedent trip, but the crafted visuals mask its real majesty. Who are we, what are we, why are we. As Bella’s eyes are opened, ours of focused. Stone is magnificent, her character commands every scene and she carries it with ease. Ruffalo is great too and Dafoe even with the easy win of fantastic make up delivers a typically magnetic performance. It’s lavish, but doesn’t make anything hard to follow. Allow it and it’s quite accessible. A feast for the eyes and the mind, with a cast of characters blessed with hidden depth. I really wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did. It’s a must watch for any fan of cinema, for anyone at all in fact. A rollercoaster with a delightful sting in its tail. We should all be more Bella.



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