In Poor Things, Yorgos Lanthimos resurrects a Frankenstein-esque narrative with dry humour and a rebellious spirit, whilst dissecting the many ways in which society shapes and confines women, both overtly and subtly.
Central to the story is, of course, the inquisitive, intelligent, and refreshingly logical Bella Baxter, portrayed by Emma Stone not as a patchwork of flesh and bolts, but as a character of tragic circumstance and surreal rebirth.
Bella's journey is one of unashamed self-discovery, and watching her navigate a world obsessed with imposing norms is an absolute joy. She's a unique figure that's endlessly interested in the world around her, viewing everything as an experiment, and carving her own path amidst a world riddled with preconcieved notions of how to behave in Victorian Society.
Her story, distinctly her own, echoes the isolation of Frankenstein's creation, but ventures into rich satire and societal critique. It pulses with a modern urgency, reflecting the constraints that women have faced across eras – constraints that were as palpable in the Victorian era as they are today. Even Bella's wardrobe itself intertwines Victorian grace with a modern edge, reminiscent of Victorian fashion while actively engaging with contemporary style.
The notable absence of constricting corsets in her wardrobe also serves as a silent act of defiance against the era's rigid norms, mirroring Bella's own exploration. Watching her is like observing a child playing dress-up in her mother’s clothes, a poignant reflection of her own unique existence as both child and mother, fused together in a surreal, lab-created amalgamation.
Lanthimos further crafts Bella's world with a palette that's both vivid and shadowed, employing distorted angles and exaggerated, zoomed in perspectives to capture her evolving psyche and giving us a window into her unique worldview.
Though the original novel by Alasdair Gray was in part inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Bella’s development stands in stark contrast to the creature. Where Shelley's creation encounters rejection and despair, Bella boldly challenges the societal norms attempting to constrain her.
Yet, rather than preaching, Lanthimos simply shows us the absurdities of our world, leaving us to draw our conclusions. The film is fucking hilarious, depicting men baffled, ego-bruised, and broken by a woman who dares to defy what's expected from her, living life unapologetically on her own terms.
Swoon-worthy, endlessly fun, and surprisingly feel-good. Go see it.