Poor Things

Poor Things

Disney+ Film
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Poor Things follows the extraordinary tale of the evolution of Bella Baxter, a young woman brought back to life by a brilliant and unorthodox scientist. And now she must navigate the world.

The only way to experience things for the first time is surely to go in head first with reckless abandon.

I had never seen a film by the notoriously peculiar director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite, Dogtooth, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) before, and knew nothing about latest offering Poor Things beyond a few lurid headlines.

The same ethos is true of main character Bella Baxter (Emma Stone).

Living in a baroque but grotesque ‘Island of Dr. Moreau’ house during an indeterminate Victorian steampunk time, her limited vocabulary and uncoordinated movement suggests that master of the house Dr. Godwin ‘God’ Baxter (Wilem Defoe) hasn’t limited his scientific slashing to just animals.

What Is Poor Things About?

So begins a movie that follows Bella as the world opens itself up to her incessantly curious prodding.

Frankenstein is the clear inspiration as on our first meeting of Bella she is barely able to control her bladder, never mind her thoughts.

Through a combination of (over) self exploration and outside influences, it isn’t long before she goes tottering off with increasingly confident steps to explore this whole ‘outside world’ thing.

The catalyst is a rakish cad in the form of Mark Ruffalo, with whom Bella absconds with whispers of a life of adventure in her ears.

That, and plenty of sex. Yes, Poor Things is an 18 rated movie for a reason, and that reason is a very large amount of sex.

Coming at this whole ‘life’ thing afresh means that Bella has to learn of the concept of ‘shame’, and utterly fails to grasp the point of it.

Ruffalo attacks his scenes like a man told to make nothing subtle. Arguably Lanthimos enjoys deploying him like a petulant bomb rather too often.

His chaotic energy is undoubtedly fun, but in an episodically structured movie that shifts from segment to segment, his lingering on in the back end threatens to make us feel like Bella: that we have outgrown him.

Poor Things Official Trailer

Is Poor Things Worth Watching?

Lanthimos’ direction and Stone’s full bodied acting combine wonderfully. The early scenes where she is an essential prisoner of father figure Baxter (Defoe in fine form as a deformed yet welcoming oddity) is presented with claustrophobic fish eye lenses and atmospheric black and white.

The blocking and colour palettes shift as Bella travels, taking us on a visual journey alongside her personal one. By the time we arrive at a hemmed in Paris, Bella is at the mercy of the consequences of her choices.

Even when Poor Things swings into territory that toys a little too close with voyeurism (an extended stint as a sex worker tests the limits of necessity) Stone is magnetic throughout.

She is tasked with portraying someone whose face is an open book, through someone hungry for all life’s experiences, to someone struggling to process all the information they have absorbed.

Come the final act as she learns all about her origins, Lanthimos suggests that many a journey of self discovery leads us back to what we tried to escape from.

From child to adult on the brink of breaking, Bella is a creation who constantly forces change by ignorantly ignoring rules and behaving instead how things perhaps ought to be.

The combination of a glorious costume department and off kilter electronic score by musician Jerskin Fendrix come together to create a singular experience once seen and never forgotten.

Poor Things explores, as Mary Shelley did before it, the concept that just because life can be created doesn’t mean it can be defined.

Whether through kindness, cruelty, or circumstance there is endless opportunity to grasp the possibilities. And also that sex is a weird old fruit, ain’t it?

Words by Mike Record

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  • Stone Is Superb
  • Visually Eye-popping
  • Funny And Charming


  • The Paris Section Is Overly Long
  • Ruffalo Is Great But Overused


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