KINDRED movie poster | ©2020 IFC Films

KINDRED movie poster | ©2020 IFC Films

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Tamara Lawrance, Jack Lowden, Edward Holcroft, Anton Lesser, Chloe Pirrie
Writers: Joe Marcantonio & Jason McColgan
Director: Joe Marcantonio
Distributor: IFC Films
Release Date: November 6, 2020

KINDRED is what might be termed modified modern Gothic, or somewhat less-than-grand Guignol. It harks back to certain kinds of old-fashioned thrillers. However, because it’s set in the present, and because the screenplay by director Joe Marcantonio and his cowriter Jason McColgan is an original rather than an adaptation, there are certain things that we expect and don’t get.

This in itself is not a flaw. Goodness knows, we can all use stories that defy expectations and surprise us. It’s just that KINDRED surprises us by neither increasing its pace nor replacing mounting tension with something else that intrigues.

Charlotte (Tamara Lawrance) and Ben (Jack Lowden) are a happy couple, living in the U.K. Ben is a veterinarian, and Charlotte seems to work at the stables. Ben, as it turns out, comes from a lot of money. His mother Margaret (Fiona Shaw) still lives in the family’s slightly rundown but enormous mansion with her dutiful stepson Thomas (Jack Lowden).

Margaret is horrified when Ben and Charlotte announce they are planning to move to Australia. Then Charlotte has a dizzy spell. Her friend and coworker Jane (Chloe Pirrie) takes Charlotte to local Dr. Richards (Anton Lesser). It turns out that Charlotte is pregnant.

Charlotte, who has been on birth control pills, is shocked. She’s fairly certain she doesn’t want to be a mother. But before she can fully think things out, the doctor has told Margaret (in violation of patient confidentiality), who tells Ben, who is overjoyed.

Then there’s an accident, and Margaret decides forcefully that she’s going to oversee Charlotte’s pregnancy.

If KINDRED were a different kind of film, it might be a sobering drama about troubled family dynamics. But it is determined to be a thriller, without seeming to fully understand what that entails.

We get back stories for Margaret and eventually for Thomas. But we don’t get much of a back story for Charlotte, beyond the fact that her mother was a bad parent, with a genetic predisposition to reject her own child. This is meant to be Charlotte’s motivation for not wanting a child – not the fact that she’s with a partner who apparently doesn’t listen to her very well, nor that she evidently doesn’t have a life outside of that partnership.

Then there’s the issue of how Charlotte deals with Margaret’s control. The filmmakers seem to feel that they are sufficiently explaining why Charlotte can’t leave, while a lot of the audience is wondering why Charlotte doesn’t attempt to take certain actions. We feel bad for her, but as a 2020 protagonist, she seems on the passive side.

We’re not sure whether Charlotte being Black and all the other main characters being white is intended to be significant. On the one hand, it makes Charlotte more vulnerable. On the other hand, no one, including Charlotte, ever mentions it, and the financial disparity between her and Margaret sufficiently stacks the deck in any case.

KINDRED is visually handsome, and Shaw is a proper powerhouse. It just takes a long time to get to a conclusion that doesn’t pack much punch.

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