Zoe Kazan and a fine ensemble of actors play characters on the margins of life in Manhattan in Danish writer/director Lone Scherfig’s The Kindness of Strangers. The narrative has a stream of dark comedy as it follows the lives of a mixed bag of struggling strangers and centers on Kazan’s character, a young woman who flees her abusive husband in Buffalo with her two young sons in tow and little else. The ensemble includes Andrea Riseborough as a lonely nurse who finds more fulfillment in running a support group called “forgiveness” and a soup kitchen than in her job, Caleb Landry Jones as a well-meaning young man who fails at the simplest job, Jay Baruchel as a lawyer who feels guilty for the guilty clients he got off and the innocent ones he didn’t, Tahar Rahim as one of his ex-clients, and Bill Nighy as the owner of an elegant-looking Russian restaurant with terrible food that is nonetheless popular with expats pining for the days of Brezhnev and the old Soviet Union. There is a quirky charm to this film that deals with fears and danger. As the messy lives of these flawed human beings intersect, it is the kindness that these strangers sometimes show each other that brings a ray of hope into each of their stories. Audiences who like neat, tidy narratives might not like this film but its big-hearted sympathy for people on the margins of society and hope-filled belief in the power of kindness will win others over to The Kindness of Strangers.
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