Emma Stone stars in Yorgos Lanthimos’s brilliant and comedic masterpiece, Poor Things, as she embarks on a wild sexual journey.

Emma Stone stars in Yorgos Lanthimos’s brilliant and comedic masterpiece, Poor Things, as she embarks on a wild sexual journey.


The title may suggest a kind and sympathetic tone, but in reality, this bizarre and epic work is filled with merciless vivisection. Poor Things is a strange mix of steampunk, retrofuturism, and Victorian horror, based on Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel and brought to the screen by screenwriter Tony McNamara and director Yorgos Lanthimos. Lanthimos creates a fantastical and distorted world, with scenes shot in monochrome or through a fish-eye lens, and others lit with rich, saturated colors like a vibrant illustration.

The main actress in his film is someone who brings her career to new heights, or even beyond that: Emma Stone. She delivers a fantastic and comedic portrayal of the sexually naive Bella Baxter, a covert test subject and ward of the charming yet troubled anatomist, Dr. Godwin Baxter (whom she calls “God”), portrayed by Willem Dafoe. Bella’s piercing stare and prominent brow observes everything, as she tries to make sense of the strange new world that Dr. Baxter has created for her.

Bella, a youthful lady, made an effort to end her own life by jumping from London’s Tower Bridge. Boldly, Baxter retrieves her body from the murky banks of the Thames at night and, resembling a combination of Victor Frankenstein from Mary Shelley’s novel and Henry Higgins from Shaw’s play, revives her using methods that are only revealed at the climax of the tale.

Bella, with her childlike nature and adult body, becomes more and more fascinated with masturbation, leading to a growth in her language abilities beyond basic English. This makes her a surprising and captivating character. She is mentored and cared for by Dr Baxter, his housekeeper Mrs Prim, and his research assistant Max McCandles, who becomes enamored with Bella. Dr Baxter agrees to let Max ask Bella to marry him, but only if they all live together in his highly complex townhouse.

However, things take a turn for the worse when the lawyer who appears with the papers finalizing this agreement reveals himself to be unscrupulous and dishonest. He charms Bella and persuades her to join him on a luxurious trip around Europe filled with pleasure and excitement. Dr. Baxter reluctantly comes to the realization that he has no other option but to release Bella. This deceitful individual is none other than Duncan Wedderburn, played brilliantly by Mark Ruffalo, whose whole countenance is altered into a mischievous nature with the addition of a mustache and, in one particular scene, a straw hat.

An extraordinary, artificial, contorted world … Stone with Ramy Youssef.

Lanthimos is influenced by Lynch’s The Elephant Man and Franju’s Eyes Without a Face. Emma Stone’s character, who is charmingly unpretentious, bears resemblances to Herzog’s Kaspar Hauser and Emily Watson’s Bess from Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves. Her slightly stiff head movements and natural way of walking – both awkward and graceful – are reminiscent of Ray Bolger’s Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.

Bella and the disreputable Wedderburn embark on a journey to Lisbon and Alexandria. While in Lisbon, Bella is captivated by a mesmerizing fado song. In Alexandria, she decides to use Duncan’s casino winnings to help lift people out of poverty. Their travels then take them to Paris, where Bella discovers that sex work is a means of survival. In her own way, Bella becomes a Victorian explorer, adventurer, and seeker of her own sexual identity. She could easily be compared to characters in Steven Marcus’s The Other Victorians or Ronald Pearsall’s The Worm in the Bud. It is remarkable that by the end of her journey, Bella is able to embody both a romantic figure and a self-taught scholar, unlike Frankenstein’s monster. She even aspires to study medicine herself.

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This movie is brought to us by a highly skilled team, which includes cinematographer Robbie Ryan and production designers James Price and Shona Heath. The musical score by Jerskin Fendrix adds a hauntingly peculiar touch. Each aspect of the film – from the frames and images to the jokes and performances – elicits a sense of thrill and anticipation.

Source: theguardian.com