Reviews

Poor Things (18) |Close Up Film Review

Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos, US/ UK/Ireland 2023, 141 mins.

Cast: Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Mark Ruffalo, Christopher Abbott, Jerrod Carmichae

Review by Carlie Newman

Emma Stone gives the most amazing portrayal of the heroine of this film, Bella Baxter. Filmed in black and white in the early scenes (in colour later) we learn that the pregnant young woman has been rescued from suicide by the scientist, Dr Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe), who is himself scarred from his childhood. He has brought her back to life by implanting the brain of her unborn child into Bella’s head. So, although she looks like an adult, she has, in fact, the emotions of a young child.

Referring to Baxter as ‘God’ Bella acts like a small child – playing the piano with her feet, spitting out food and throwing things around. She speaks like an infant. When Baxter employs Max (Ramy Youssef) to monitor and keep a close eye on Bella, her life changes. Max falls in love with her and she learns to speak more fluently and have emotional contact with someone other than Baxter and the housekeeper.

But it is the seductive bounder, Duncan (Mark Ruffalo) that she runs away with. He introduces her to – what she calls – ‘furious jumping’ and the sex really excites her. The two travel to various countries and besides sexual intercourse, Duncan introduces her to many different new experiences. Bella gradually becomes more articulate and, indeed, more worldly. She has many adventures as she develops into a fully independent woman.

Lots of amusing scenes with Lanthimos bringing his skill for showing fantastical sets and characters (including dogs with chicken heads), the film is a real feast for the eyes as well as other senses. Drawing some inspiration from Bride of Frankenstein (1935) in the development of an experiment, Lanthimos inserts his own individual, idiomatic touches. The film has been adapted from Alasdair Gray’s novel by the screenwriter Tony McNamara.

Beautifully acted by all, Ruffalo is superb in his comic portrayal of the wicked lawyer. But it is Emma Stone’s very physical depiction of the heroine which makes this film an award contender. You can’t take your eyes off her when she is on screen.

This is a film with very adult content. Do see it and enjoy!