It hasn’t taken me a long time to realize that, basically, any film or television program that stars Fiona Shaw in any capacity is going to be great. This theory is only further proved with Joe Marcantonio’s latest movie, Kindred. Shaw stars as Margaret, mother to Ben (Edward Holcroft), a kind and handsome veterinarian. He and his girlfriend, Charlotte (Tamara Lawrance), are preparing to move to Australia, which Margaret doesn’t take too well. Charlotte assumed she would be rid of her pesky prospective mother-in-law with their upcoming move.
But, circumstances take an ugly turn when Ben dies in an unfortunate job-related accident. Charlotte discovers right before the moving announcement that she is pregnant, but she’s not even sure she wants to keep the baby. On the day of Ben’s funeral, which is on the grounds where his mother lives, Charlotte has fainting spells. She wakes up in Margaret’s house, under the care of her stepson and Ben’s stepbrother, Thomas (Jack Lowden), who means well, but still manages to have an incredibly menacing quality. Charlotte wants to leave once she feels better but discovers that she has no home to return to, as Ben had financial issues that caused their house to be foreclosed on. Now, Charlotte is pregnant, afraid, and at the mercy of two people she has never truly liked, all the while trapped in a dilapidated old mansion.
“Charlotte tries over and over to get out of the house, to more and more disastrous results.”
Gaslighting is the name of the game in Kindred. Charlotte knows something is wrong, but there is no one around to help her or believe her. Even her best friend, Jane (Chloe Pirrie), doesn’t believe that Margaret and Thomas have any ill intent towards her. Charlotte tries over and over to get out of the house, with more and more disastrous results. As her pregnancy begins to show, her main concern is to save the baby. Still, as time goes on, we come to realize that this baby is not meant for Charlotte, but rather for Margaret and Thomas, who want a do-over for their respective horrible experiences with childhood and child-rearing. Will Charlotte outwit her captors? Are they even really her captors? Is Charlotte crazy?
The screenplay, surprisingly written by two men, Joe Marcantonio and Jason McColgan, very expertly handles the concept of women who have pregnancy-related mental illness. It also espouses great commentary about women’s freedom of choice and all the ways in which the world wants to make that go away. The script is also wonderful at capturing a sense of claustrophobic dread that many people might be able to relate to more in a post-coronavirus world. I have seen many comparisons to Rosemary’s Baby, and I get that, but don’t think this has any supernatural surprises waiting for you. The fear comes from a real place, which makes Kindred a tremendously effective psychological thriller, which comes as no surprise, seeing as IFC Midnight chose to distribute the movie.
And as good as she is, Shaw is not even the actor who gives the best performance here. That honor goes to Lawrance, a relative newcomer to the world of film. So, please check out Kindred, except if you’re pregnant, then maybe wait ’till the baby’s born?
"…expertly handles the concept of women who have pregnancy-related mental illness."