★★★★ out of ★★★★★
A pregnant woman finds herself at the mercy of her deceased boyfriend’s peculiar family in this taut thriller.
Directed by Joe Marcantonio
U.K. feature Kindred is a solid thriller with pregnancy paranoia overtones reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby and its successors, and it is also rich with gaslighting elements. Director Joe Marcantonio’s film takes those scenarios and puts a fresh spin on things by having an unreliable narrator protagonist along with antagonists who show vulnerabilities in their personalities.
Marcantonio, who cowrote the film with Jason McColgan, focuses on mystery and character development rather than shocks and gore. Although viewers side with Charlotte (Tamara Lawrance), a young woman who plans to move from the United Kingdom to Australia with her veterinarian boyfriend Ben (Edward Holcroft) despite the bitter protests from his mother Margaret (Fiona Shaw) that he has a family legacy to uphold with their mansion. Add to this stress the fact that Charlotte has just learned that she is pregnant and is not thrilled about having a child.
When Ben dies in a freak accident while tending to a horse, Charlotte collapses, waking up to find herself at Margaret’s home, where Margaret’s stepson Thomas (Jack Lowden) also resides. Margaret and Thomas assure Charlotte that the best place for her to be is right there with them, with their family physician Doctor Richards (Anton Lesser) to be in charge of her medical care. The longer Charlotte stays there, the more she worries that she is being held there against her will, with her pregnancy and the mental illness that her mother suffered during and after being pregnant with Charlotte being used as reasons to keep her hostage.
Marcantonio weaves plenty of mystery around the motivations of Margaret and Thomas, and Dr. Richards certainly seems to be in on things, too. The director also leaves space for viewers to wonder if there might be some sympathetic or other emotional reasons for their behavior — as well as what their end game might be for Charlotte and her baby. To add to the enigmatic proceedings, Charlotte’s insistence that her mother had mental and psychological issues but she does not is brought into question to varying degrees. This all makes for much more intrigue than is found in standard fare dealing with gaslighting and paranoia.
The performances from the three leads are all splendid. Lawrance is superb, nailing every emotion asked of her in a multilayered performance. Shaw is amazing as an overbearing mother and potential grandmother, especially shining in a scene where Margaret speaks frankly of some horrible events that happened to her. Lowden is also terrific as he invests his character with a creepiness that delivers shivers. The supporting cast members all give top-notch turns, as well.
Marcantonio deftly balances suspense, mystery, and drama in Kindred. It’s a gorgeous looking film with a dark edge, masterfully acted and beautifully crafted.
Kindred, from IFC Midnight, is available in select theaters, digital and cable VOD.