“Kindred” sets up as a mash up of “Get Out!” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” with its pregnant Black woman trapped on the Scottish estate of the father of her child.
It’s not nearly as paranoid or supernatural as all that. The movie we’re left with is more a battle of wills, with a whiff of madness or whatever it is that has our heroine dreaming of crows. Slim thriller pickings, in other words.
Charlotte, played with a gathering intensity by Tamara Lawrence, is the stable worker who fell for the handsome veterinarian. They’d love to move to Australia, make a fresh start. But Ben (Edward Holcroft) has this mother that they both avoid, and his mother’s stepson Thomas (Jack Lowden) isn’t anybody they’d care to visit, either. “We’re not even related,” Ben hisses.
Still, in the spirit of “get it over with,” they come over for lunch and to break the news. It does not go well.
“Your brother is LEAVING me,” Mum (Fiona Shaw in fully fury) rages. So much for lunch.
But their plans to flee hit a few bumps in the road. Charlotte is the last to realize that she’s pregnant (continuity has her looking preggers from the start). She’s not sure she wants to bring the fetus to term. “I’m on the pill for a REASON,” after all.
And then Ben is killed in a work accident.
Tragedy or not, Charlotte and the mother tear into each other — literally — at the hospital. The next thing Charlotte knows, she wakes up in the estate, her phone is mysteriously “broken,” and she cannot leave.
Co-writer and director Joe Marcantonio, making his feature directing debut, drapes “Kindred” in the gloom of late fall and has the score (by Jack Halama and Natalie Holt) shrouded in quivering strings — classic thriller touches.
But tone and good performers alone will only take you so far, and the thin story here rather lets the project down. Hints of Charlotte’s family having a “history” of mental problems are left dangling, undercutting any notion that she’s imagining that everyone — the family doctor (Anton Lesser), hovering Thomas and cruel, controlling Margaret (Shaw) — is out to get her, or at least keep her locked up her.
Charlotte’s escape attempts are diverting but hardly riveting. Maybe she’s cunning enough to get out, or maybe they’re drugging her, clouding her judgment and slowing her down enough to make such efforts futile.
We long for that moment when she can force her way into a hospital or turn to a friend (Chloe Pirrie) with that all important “Look, I know this is going to sound crazy” plea for help.
It’s not just that “Kindred” doesn’t go full “Rosemary’s Baby” with why these strangers want her to have her baby at home where they can get at it, or that we get little clear notion of why they won’t let her “Get Out.” It’s that the movie has very little, suspense and thrills-wise, to offer instead.
MPAA Rating: unrated, violence
Cast: Tamara Lawrence, Jack Lowden, Edward Holcroft, Chloe Pirrie and Fiona Shaw.
Credits: Directed by Joe Marcantonio, script by Joe Marcantonio and Jason McColgan. An IFC Midnight release.
Running time: 1:42