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Film Review: “Kindred” Is a Subtle but Sinister Family Melodrama/Thriller

Written by: Adam Vaughn | November 5th, 2020

Film poster: “Kindred”

Kindred (Joe Marcantonio, 2020) 3 out of 4 stars.

Kindred tells the story of Charlotte (Tamara Lawrance, King Charles III), a recently widowed wife who discovers she is pregnant with her deceased husband’s child. Living with her step-family, Charlotte wishes to return to her home, or better yet, leave the country entirely, yet her husband’s family insists that she remain at the mother’s estate, seemingly against her will. Will she escape the obsessed mother-in-law (Fiona Shaw, The Hippopotamus) and brother-in-law (Jack Lowden, England Is Mine) before her husband’s child is due?

A major, unmistakably noticeable detail of the film is its subtle but often dragging plot, interrupted only by the occasional elements of surprise. The film takes a considerable amount of time to get going, and never leads to any moments of real tension, but rather mild spectacle. The main characters are performed well enough, with Tamara Lawrance leading the ensemble with a well-invested portrayal of a pregnant, borderline-hallucinogenic woman being tormented by the family-in-law. Overall, director Joe Marcantonio, making his feature debut, keeps things at a more melodramatic pace than a suspenseful one, disappointing the viewer in thrills and suspense to a slight degree (seeing the film be marketed as a horror/thriller, this comes as a pertinent letdown).

l-r: Jack Lowden, Fiona Shaw and Tamara Lawrance in KINDRED. Courtesy of IFC Midnight. An IFC Midnight Release.

Where Kindred is weak in suspense, however, it absolutely flourishes in thematic content. From the choice of racial casting, to the dynamics between characters – established through both the writing as well as the direction and performances – Kindred’s message is not only clear and precise, but extremely powerful and timely, in terms of today’s social issues of what it means to be a woman, and the potential horror of carrying a child that doesn’t feel like it belongs to you. Lawrance’s portrayal of Charlotte fully embodies a character that is not only physically bound to her in-laws’ estate, but also emotionally and spiritually helpless in her dilemma and her instinct to survive. This theme is further supported by the various (if not sometimes random) circumstances and surprises the script provides, increasing Charlotte’s urgent need to escape further and further.

As a cinematic thriller, Kindred offers a few but not enough gripping scenes to pull the audience in, but is a crafty and thoughtfully written piece that makes the audience think of (and often fear) the possibility of an extended family gone horribly wrong. Director Marcantonio’s work has a strong sense of solidified, concrete writing, and when viewed as a tense drama, Kindred becomes a realistically scary concept. While it may miss the mark on moments of suspense and effective terror or thrills, this does not hold the film back from exploring a clever and well-executed idea, one that may very well haunt the female audience and leave them with various chilling (if not impractical) thoughts on marriage and childbearing.

Tamara Lawrance in KINDRED. Courtesy of IFC Midnight. An IFC Midnight Release.

Adam Vaughn is a graduate of the Film & Moving Image program at Stevenson University, with a focus in Cinematography and Production. He also has a minor in Theater and Media Performance. Adam works as a freelance photographer and videographer, focusing his craft on creating compelling photographic and cinematic imagery. Adam is excited to join the Film Festival Today team and explore the world of cinema and visual arts.

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