Whether they be crows or ravens, birds play a terrifying part in Kindred, a beautifully rendered psychological thriller from director Joe Marcantonio. Blessed with first rate work from Tamara Lawrence (The Long Song), Fiona Shaw (Killing Eve), and Jack Lowden (Dunkirk), Kindred is a family story that should get under your skin.
We are introduced Charlotte (Tamara Lawrance) and boyfriend Ben (Edward Holcroft) a happy couple that are encumbered by the suffocating love of his mother Margaret (Fiona Shaw). Stepson Thomas (Jack Lowden) and Margaret live in a manor that, though eye-catching, needs a bit of renovation and tender loving care.
The estate, which has been lived in for generations, is Margaret’s possession. Jack, along with being her family member, is the de facto servant of the domicile. A recently pregnant Charlotte is not a fan of Margaret’s helicopter style parenting and is in desperate need of change. A move to Australia for the young couple is in the offing, but when Ben unexpectedly passes, Charlotte runs out of options.
Living in the Scottish estate while being cared by love ones seems like the obvious choice, especially since Charlotte is also dealing with the recent tragedy. Margaret and Jack are a bit too hands on with Charlotte’s pregnancy, and our protagonist tries to break free from their clutches.
That said, Margaret and Jack may be simply looking out for Charlotte’s welfare, as her own mother has a history of mental and emotional trauma. Although the inner walls of the estate are faded and the furniture is a bit too dusty for its own good, trying to keep a large property nice and clean must be a gargantuan task. As for the aforementioned birds Charlotte sees near her window or on the property, could they just be a harmless part of the environment? They could be a figment of her imagination . . .
Director Joe Marcantonio and co-writer Jason McColgan are both parents, and that experience is evident in their storytelling. Though Kindred’s shiny trappings exist in the thriller genre, the scribes are more interested in the tangled web of family dynamics (and gaslighting). Some of the more terrifying parts of Kindred lies in the viewer’s capacity to understand why Margaret wants to keep her family within arm’s reach. Fiona Shaw, brilliant as always, delivers a candid and shocking monologue about motherhood that is one for the ages.
As the woman who is gradually becoming undone, Tamara Lawrance holds the narrative together like a seasoned vet (expect way more roles to come her way). Jack Lowden, who also produced Kindred, delivers a fully fleshed performance as the dutiful Thomas. Lowden could have channeled Norman Bates, but thankfully he keeps everything dialed down, making Thomas even more horrifying.
There is a ton of mystery that Kindred offers which may disappoint fans who crave a deliciously garish denouement. Kindred invites us to travel beyond the well worn thriller tropes and take a look at our own family. Do we manipulate our flesh and blood beyond repair? They say love heals all wounds, but Kindred also proves there is terror right around the corner.
Credit goes to Marcantonio for delivering a visually immersive yet unnerving world while also infusing subtlety to the proceedings. A week after viewing Kindred, I’m still thinking about this film, especially since family is always on my mind. Whether this movie hits you the same manner is another story. Either way, you might see your neighborhood gathering of crows in a different light.
Rating: 4 out of 5 *****
KINDRED hits Theaters, Digital and Cable VOD November 6 via IFC Midnight.