Poor Things – Review

Worth seeing: as a fascinating riff on the Frankenstein myth, with steampunk aesthetics and an outrageously offbeat delivery
Director:Yorgos Lanthimos
Featuring:Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Charlie Hiscock, Christopher Abbott, Hanna Schygulla, Jack Barton, Jerrod Carmichael, Kate Handford, Kathryn Hunter, Owen Good, Ramy Youssef, Vivienne Soan
Length:142 minutes
Country:Ireland, UK, US
Released:12th January 2024


Dr Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe) is a brilliant, disfigured genius, who teaches the next generation of surgeons by day, while experimenting with cutting edge science back at home.

He recruits his brightest student, Max (Ramy Youssef), to move in with him to monitor the progress of a young woman, Bella (Emma Stone), who lives with him; it’s not initially clear whether she’s his daughter, a patient or something more disturbing.

At first, she appears to have severe learning difficulties, but her capacity for development increases rapidly and as a besotted Max falls in love with her, she decides to run away with a delightfully sleazy lawyer, Duncan (Mark Ruffalo).

As her journey of self-discovery continues, she soon seems to outgrow even him and returns home when Godwin falls ill. But all her progress is threatened when a figure from her past makes an unexpected reappearance.


As the latest from the director that brought us films such as Dogtooth, The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Favourite, it won’t come as a great surprise to learn that Poor Things is built on a premise that’s as surreal as it is disturbing – laced with the darkest of humour.

With a steampunk aesthetic, it’s visually arresting, with a handful of moments so eye-popping that you wish you could rewind and rewatch.

Yorgos Lanthimos deftly unfurls a complex plot – a riff on Frankenstein – with almost perplexing clarity, as he constantly challenges viewers to reconsider their understanding of the world around them.

Based on a novel from the Scottish author Alasdair Gray, Poor Things has been criticised by some for taking the narrative out of Glasgow, but if you don’t know about its provenance, this Victorian horror works perfectly well, wherever – and whenever – it’s set.

It’s received a number of five-star reviews; while it’s unquestionably a remarkable piece of film-making – from the writing and acting to the photography, production design and costumes – but it’s not for everyone.

Many viewers will find it too arch, disturbing or even offensive – it’s certainly difficult to watch at times. But if you like your cinema offbeat and outrageous, Poor Things is a worthy addition to the weird and wonderful world of Yorgos Lanthimos.