The lead is Tamara Lawrence as Charlotte, visiting with husband Ben (Edward Holcroft) to the estate of his mother Margaret (Fiona Shaw) and his brother Thomas (Jack Lowden). The couple is there to break the news that Charlotte is pregnant, but they will be moving away from London to Australia. This is not the ideal scenario for dear ole mommy. Things change quickly, when Ben is killed in a freak accident with a horse in his stable, leaving Charlotte alone, and an opportunity for mother and brother to control a child they desperately want to keep in their lives. It’s not just a family thing, it goes to a whole other level, where Charlotte is being drugged to keep her confused, constantly told, “you need your rest, for the baby's sake.”, and a prisoner on the estate till the bundle of joy arrives. It’s a twisted manipulating imprisonment and it grows darker with every passing minute, with Charlotte constantly looking for a way to escape this nightmare.
There are a plethora of reasons why I enjoyed Kindred, although its pace is not always moving fast, but early on it establishes that there's a divide between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, but it hides exactly how sinister Margaret and son Thomas can be. They use their son/brother’s death as a tool of control, with Thomas being equally disturbing as the mother. All three characters are in a disturbing triangle, with Charlotte as the one looking for any advantage, while Thomas does his mother’s bidding, a sick game of good cop and bad cop, while Charlotte’s life, the baby's life are all being used as leverage for these two disturbed people to get what they want.
Early on, I thought Kindred was going to be a new take on Rosemary’s Baby, which has elements of that here, but director Joe Marcantonio uses his space differently. The estate is massive, which does not create a sense of claustrophobia, but a reversed, and vast mystery of where Charlotte can go. The estate has a long stretch of road leading up to the house, with fields for days, while Charlotte has no car, her phone is broken, and her mother-in-law is pushing herself into the entire pregnancy. With each passing day, her imprisonment becomes a reality, where her body is just an incubator for the child. Charlotte’s humanity is stripped from her, all for the sake of keeping this child in the family line.
One of the other major successes with Kindred is all three acting performances. Lawrence’s work as Charlotte is measured, a person confused as to how she becomes trapped in this scenario, while looking for a way out by any means necessary. The work by Jack Lowden is creep city, with his portrayal as a man that lacks emotion, portraying an obvious sociopath, and someone that is clinging to his mother. And then there is Fiona Shaw, who, once again, completely steals the film. In a perfect world Shaw would be nominated for an Oscar with her work here. Her portrayal as the mother is delightfully twisted, delivering a cryptic monologue, portraying a scary person capable of mind games, waiting in the wings like a demented villain to James Bond. Marcantonio and co-writer Jason McColgan turn the screws tighter with each minute, drawing us in with the hope of Charlotte’s escape, and hinting at the ambiguity that this all might just be in her own head. The psychological warfare in Kindred is palpable.
Much of Kindred is a big, and welcomed, surprise. The ending alone is a collection of twists and turns. And the major themes paint a bleak interpretation of how sinister a family can be towards another person, specifically when it comes to putting a baby above the health of the mother giving birth to her own child. There’s an intriguing theme about a woman having control over her own body, her own child, and her own way of living. They always say, “mommy knows best.”. But in this case, mommy is as dangerous as they come. Kindred is not exactly, “family friendly”.
KINDRED IS IN SELECT THEATERS THIS WEEKEND AND AVAILABLE ON DEMAND FROM IFC FILMS
Written by: Leo Brady
November 3rd, 2020
STARRING: TAMARA LAWRANCE; JACK LOWDEN; FIONA SHAW; CHLOE PIRRIE
DIRECTED BY: JOE MARCANTONIO
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Kindred is the perfect movie to pair with The Invisible Man in a unique, but still disturbing way. Where Leigh Whannell’s hit interpretation of the “man you can’t see” hit on themes of psychological manipulation and abuse towards women, Kindred hits on the physical manipulation of women through their bodies. Joe Marcantonio’s film is unflinching in cornering the audience, through the lead character’s own imprisonment, creating the emotions of desperately wanting to get out. And even though there are some narrative choices in Kindred that are made strictly to allow the plot to continue, it still makes for a paralyzed and twisted film about family manipulation. Kindred is a horror-thriller of maddening proportions, about a woman who loses her husband while pregnant, and his family will do everything in their power to keep her and the baby in their sights. Kindred is a fascinating thriller that can’t be contained.