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Tahar Rahim, left and Bill Nighy in The Kindness of Strangers.Courtesy of eOne

  • The Kindness of Strangers
  • Written and directed by Lone Scherfig
  • Starring Zoe Kazan, Andrea Riseborough and Bill Nighy
  • Classification PG
  • 112 minutes


1 out of 4 stars

Maybe Lone Scherfig titled her new film The Kindness of Strangers as a pre-emptive defence mechanism. Maybe, the Danish director thought, critics and audiences will check their own empathy levels before deciding whether they liked her new drama or not. Maybe strangers will be kind. Sorry to burst that presumption, but dear lord, I’ve been searching high and low for something nice to say about this mess, and I have come up nearly empty. It is an absolute mystery how the filmmaker behind An Education and Their Finest produced this film, just as it’s head-scratching how Telefilm Canada got involved. (The movie is an international effort at awfulness, with the blame being shared by producers in the United Staes the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Sweden and Canada.)

New in theatres this week: Canadian triumph Antigone, the powerful She Never Died and the terrible Kindness of Strangers

Okay, one kind word: Bill Nighy is clearly enjoying himself playing a New York businessman whose caviar restaurant improbably becomes a beacon for a host of impoverished ne’er-do-wells. But that is the only nicety I can muster for this otherwise cartoonish treacle, in which every character behaves as though they are an alien unfamiliar with our world and every emotion is underscored by an offensively blunt score. And we haven’t even touched how Scherfig makes Zoe Kazan’s young mother the stupidest person to ever wander Manhattan, unintentionally equating domestic abuse with naivety.

Make The Kindness of Strangers a friend you’ll never have to meet.

The Kindness of Strangers opens Dec. 6

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