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Poor Things

Farhad Dalal
Farhad Dalal
4.5 Star popcorn reviewss


I may have just watched one of the most unique movies ever! Right from the time the Academy Award Nominations were announced, there was a good amount of buzz around one particular film that was making waves in the International circuit. The film was Poor Things wherein each and eveey cinephile that I know was keenly awaiting its release. And because I had a little time on my hands, I happened to briefly study the screenplay of Poor Things to get a fair idea about what the film is about. This wasn’t the entire screenplay that I ended up studying but just an excerpt of it, given that I would like to also address myself as a Student Of Cinema. I was absolutely blown by the premise while wondering on the idiosyncracy of the filmmaking required to stay true to its source material while completely going bonkers with its execution. As the date of the release neared, my excitement levels went through the roof. Clearly, this was the most anticipated film of the year for me, so then does Poor Things live up to its hype…let’s find out.

Story & Screenplay

Based on a novel by the same name, Poor Things follows the story of Bella, a grown up woman with an implanted brain of a fetus who discovers the world of patriarchy and socialism through her rapidly accelerated mental growth. As weird and bizarre as the premise sounds, the story here is perhaps the most unique piece of writing that I have witnessed in years. It is simplistic and hilarious while not being extremely difficult to understand yet there are so many complex themes that demanded your comprehension. And this is what sets the writing apart from most content that I have ended up watching this year given that it has a sense of madness associated with the layered messaging packaged in a screenplay standing at a shade under 140 minutes thereby making it entertaining and hilarious.

The drama opens in bizarre fashion with a glimpse of two of the many principal characters – an eccentric surgeon almost resembling Frankenstein while the other Bella, a fully grown woman who is shown to act in a childish manner. Soon the surgeon appoints an assistant to collect data of Bella wherein the assistant realises that something is amiss, only to be told by his master that Bella was actually a woman who had committed suicide while still being pregnant(and the young fetus was alive). And as a part of an experiment, he had implanted the brain of the fetus in the young woman to give rise to Bella whose intellect was rapidly developing with every passing day. This, while we are told that the surgeon(who is a eunuch) wishes to ignite feelings between Bella and his assistant who seemingly takes a liking for her.

The character of Bella was superbly penned while the writers did make a conscious creative choice of unfolding the drama through her gaze. So initially, you do notice Bella to be in her own cacoon almost protected to a point wherein she is studied for her behavior without quite letting her out of their sight by the surgeon and his assistant. But it is when Bella discovers ‘touch’ for the first time is when she wishes to explore the world in a fascinating case study pivoted around her brain which was like a little sponge. She wished for someone to ‘furiously jump’ on her while she was a free bird wishing to experience pleasure even at the cost of being treated as a tool for it by a vicious and debauched man of little integrity.

Even though the drama is set in the Victorian era, the issues remain relevant to even the current timeline. The patriarchy is prevalent in the drama wherein all men around Bella wish to control her by their individual thoughts and beliefs. This is represented in a wonderful scene involving the debauched man wishing to dance with Bella only for her to cut loose and dance solo by freeing her arms. Along the way, Bella also discovers pain towards others coupled by empathy that makes her give out all the riches of her debauched ‘lover’ much to his dismay. This, while she slowly starts developing a philosophical outlook towards life with bouts of socialism that she experiences in her new job involving prostitution wherein she is told to sleep with men against her wishes while briefly forming a bond with a fellow colleague.

The proceedings are hilarious and entertaining that continue right through the final act as well that traces its roots to the beginning of the film. In the final act, you do get to know about the husband of Victoria(the woman who had died with a fetus inside her only to be woken up as Bella). He is an authoritative entity almost controlling all her actions even to the smallest actions of Bella. But herein also lies a layered detail – Victoria and Bella may look similar but mentally they aren’t the same person. Victoria may not have explored the wrongdoings of the world whereas Bella at a tender mental age was well versed with the same, and this prompts her to continue the legacy of her father-surgeon(who is on his death bed) by continuing with the experiments on her husband in a hilarious twist at the end. And this was the epitome of feminism, to demand equal rights to genders without being controlled in any manner – something that this brilliant screenplay highlighted in a seemingly enjoyable manner.

Dialogues, Music & Direction

The dialogues are playful with a layered sense of profound idiosyncrasy that generates a lot of dark humour. For instance, Bella being absolutely unabashed about talking ‘dirty’ in public despite repeatedly warnings by people around her was a perfect example of a child muttering her inner thoughts without really having a filter, something that contributed to the humour. The BGM goes perfectly with the vibe of the drama, almost reaching a crescendo during several ‘furious jumps’ and moves of passion while elsewhere allowing the emotions to reach you without any manipulation. The cinematography is outstanding with wide shots and the use of fish lens to allow the viewers to be deliberately detached from the drama, almost as a reminder of the fantasy world created around the characters. This adds to the aesthetics of the drama while each frame can be accounted for a postcard with the right use of monochrome and colours to compliment the narrative.

Notice how the colours begin on a grey note almost representative of the mind of Bella while slowly gaining colour along the way based on things she discovers and absorbs. This was also in contrast to the sea of blue which was the final visual of Victoria as she takes a plunge into the sea for the final time representing a sense of low and pale-ness in her life. The editing is excellent, never stalling the flow of the drama and maintaining pace wonderfully well. Director Yorgos Lanthimos goes absolutely bonkers with the idea and transforms it into something fantasical yet relevant while never quite lecturing the audience with his messaging. In fact, his idea of idiosyncrasy is to allow yourself to explore the right and wrongs of the world without allowing anyone to control you at any given point of time. And he represents this thought through the character of Bella who was wonderfully well developed. The direction is stupendous here.


The performances are stellar by the ensemble cast. Christopher Abbott as Alfie is excellent despite a limited screen time. Jerrod Carmichael as Harry and Suzy Bemba as Toinette have their moments to shine. Ramy Youssef as Max is sincere and earnest in a character who is quite affable. Willem Dafoe as Godwin is excellent while giving an intimidating outlook to his character as a first impression that soon transforms into something more profound by the end of it. Mark Ruffalo as Duncan goes absolutely bonkers with his character who is debaunched as a core representative of patriarchy. His sedate yet insane act is hilarious and will definitely put a smile on your face with bouts of rage. But the show undoubtedly belongs to Emma Stone who shines as Bella. Her antics are excellent in a character that is layered while mentally stepping into the big bad world. Her body language was right on point making it a memorable outing for her in what was a towering and unabashed act laced with feminism.


Nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards this year, Poor Things is an idiosyncratic surrealist steampunk drama laced with feminism and some relevant social commentary that accounts for one of the most unique movie watching experiences for me in recent times. The drama is highly highly recommended from my end.

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