Filmmaker Lone Scherfig’s The Kindness of Strangers is a modern tale of six unlikely strangers who share in common a genuine need for help, hope, acceptance, appreciation, and most importantly, success and respect. Their lives intersect and coalesce in unexpected ways when they step up to help a homeless young mother with two young sons who is desperately trying to escape an abusive marriage.
Written and directed by Scherfig, the New York City drama features an impressive ensemble cast that includes Zoe Kazan, Andrea Riseborough, Bill Nighy, Caleb Landry Jones, Jay Baruchel and Tahar Rahim. Scherfig attempts to write an authentic story that will resonate with audiences, including those that may have never experienced such bleak situations in their own lives.
The well-intentioned story is told from multiple perspectives by misunderstood characters with a past who are going through difficult times. As one of them says at their weekly therapy session, “Why can’t you be more caring, more compassionate? What gives you the right to be unkind?”
Unfortunately, the film is miscalculated, overly sentimental, tonally uneven, and fails to hit the high marks the filmmaker intended despite the determined efforts of an exceptional cast.
At times, the pace is painfully slow. The nearly two-hour film would have benefited from some trimming, especially in the final act when Scherfig tries to neatly wrap up all the loose ends whether they need it or not.
In a couple instances, comedic beats are integrated into more serious moments that feel awkward and simply don’t’ work. Like the characters in its story, The Kindness of Strangers is flawed and struggles to be better.