Kindred (2020) is a manifestation of fear that knows no bounds.
What makes this film so chilling is that it does not follow the typical blood and gore qualities of other films, but instead it has a terrifying narrative. The idea of a family wanting the best for their love ones yet doing anything to control them is alarming, but when they attempt to control an expectant mother, new fears arise. Kindred prompts the audience to abandon all hope for an expectant mother by covering her slowly with a family that would do anything for her child — and they do mean anything.
Joe Marcantonio makes his directorial debut with a terrifyingly disturbing psychological feature film, Kindred. He has given painstaking attention to how each of his characters should feel and sound, and it has paid off in this work. This film takes the fear of being on bed rest for a soon-to-be mother and pushes it to its frightening extremes.
Marcantonio spares none of his characters, as he places all of them in one lovely home together. This home highlights the old, the elegant, and the money that a family has. The dark and gloomy scenes are a perfect touch to reflect the horrors that lie behind every wall and crevasse. Marcantonio has an experienced eye, and with it has piloted this horrifying film to its unimaginable ending.
Charlotte (Tamara Lawrance) is a newly expecting mother with a choice to make. She is unsure if her desires for the baby align with the desires of her husband Ben. This quickly become irrelevant when Ben (Edward Holcroft) is suddenly killed in a freak accident. Charlotte is in a fragile state of mind, shocked from finding out she is pregnant, and her husband has recently died. She is comforted by Ben’s family. Having very few options left, Ben’s family offers to let her to stay with them while she slowly picks up the pieces of her shattered life. Ben’s mother Margaret (Fiona Shaw) and Ben’s stepbrother Thomas (Jack Lowden) prove to be more than accommodating, almost to the point of suffocating.
There is so much to love about Marcantonio’s characters. Lawrance as Charlotte is simply brilliant in her performance. In the dreadful scene where the Dr. Richards tells Charlotte that Ben has just died, she is only given seconds to grieve for her lover. Just a few moments after grieving for the loss of Ben, Margaret blames Charlotte for what happened to her son. Being compounded with all that she is dealing with, she momentarily loses control over herself and goes and attacks her for her vicious comment. This reaction is just stunning and portrays a deep hurt and sincerity to it. The scene really drives the point home as to how distressed and angry Charlotte is. Her reactions and delivery are in step with the film’s message. There is something about how she looks at Thomas and Margaret that screams real fear and anger. Her performance is incredibly convincing.
In many films, often the most beloved character is the villain, and for Kindred it is no different. Jack Lowden as Thomas is beautifully chilling. There is something about the softness that he portrays and the psychotic character he depicts that makes him a sympathetic villain. When he has his brief monologue about his father’s attitude and how abusive he was toward him, that was saddening. Yet, he manages to shift the mood with a clever line or two. Just well done! He not only exudes a mist of comfort and humor but does so in a way that horrifies. There is a running joke on the quiche that he makes for meals, and it is very effective as a comedic tool. This joke provides just enough to make him appear harmless and disarming. However, when his intentions are made clear as to his feelings toward wanting to be a protector, those feelings become more horrifying than any weapon.
In the world that Marcantonio has created for his viewers, a world filled with endless horrors and fears, there is little hope to be had for the new mother. Marcantonio has touched on a few themes from motherhood, mental health, and grieving. All of these are used to spin together a film that will have some questioning how much their second family cares about them. By the time Kindred reaches its final act, the curtains have been drawn back and a complete understanding of the family is exposed for all to see. By the ending, a full celebration of the horrific events that took place is underway. Marcantonio has played with his characters in a way that the ending feels like an unwelcome surprise for all, leaving every wondering, what happens next?
Kindred is a film that explores the hidden fears that some mothers have about their children being taken away from them. Marcantonio works through some of these fears in his disturbing feature. The film thrives in its exploration of family horrors. What happens when the family extends their reach too far into your personal life? The answer to that is horror.
The horror genre begins to be revitalized by the number of films that emerge, what better time than now to add this to the list of films to discover.
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Donnie Lopez is a gay Latino/Hispanic social and political commentator, writer, entertainment journalist, and professor. He writes on topics that affect Hispanic/Latino culture. With his novel insight, veracity, and sense of humor, he entertains as well as educates the world.