Kindred Genuinely Scary Doesn’t Try For Simulated Scares

Kindred

Starring  Tamara Lawrance as Charlotte,Fiona Shaw as Margaret,Jack Lowden as Thomas,Edward Holcroft as Ben

Directed by Joe Marcantonio

Rating: ***

While I sat riveted  to  young pregnant Charlotte’s  imprisonment by her mother-in-law and  brother-in-law  after her husband’s sudden accidental death, I often  thought of two films where the heroine is  trapped by her conservative in-laws into an inescapable allegiance.

One was  Not Without My Daughter where Sally Field tries to escape her  husband’s  tyrannical family and the other was  the same film’s unofficial Bollywood remake Shakti where Karisma Kapoor tries to flee from her demented  father-in-law with her child.

Kindred is  more creepy than both the above films. Its whiplash  suspense is constantly ‘choler’-coordinated.  The heroine  Charlotte(Tamara Lawrance, superbly clued-in to the fright rites) is seen to be seething in rage all the time , as  her despotic mother-in-law(the brilliant Fiona Shaw) pumps  up the  angst to an  unbearable degree.

As  Charlotte’s confinement  grows  more  intense  the script coils  and recoils its tentacles  around her  predicament without  preening or  gloating in  the way horror movies generally do, deriving a  perverse pleasure  in the protagonist’s  fears. More than the horror of being held against her  will it is the whole class difference that  underlines  Charlotte’s  immediate  horror which  frightens  us.

That Charlotte is black immediately puts her in a specially  vulnerable  position  vis a vis her snobbish  upperclass mother-in-law . There is a lengthy  monologue  of  the mother-in-law where she  tells  Charlotte that her dead son always liked chasing animals. The  racial subtext  of this horrifying   monologue is  not lost  on the audience.

 This  upperclass British  woman whose beloved son  married  beneath  him will take revenge with the help of  her  other morally dithering  son(the  adept Jack Lowden). As  the mother-in-law’s intentions grow nakedly  clear, the  plot gets progressively  submissive to  the habitual suspense  tropes, like a bestfreind who betrays  Charlotte, a seemingly sympathetic doctor(played by a Pakistani British actress Kiran Sonia  Sawar) who  squeals  on Charlotte , etc.

Then there is  her brother-in-law whom Charlotte  begins to manipulate to her own advantage. These are tawdry tricks of terror from  horror films  that this  refined representation of the genre  could have  avoided. But then maybe the  director  shares Charlotte’s aversion for refinement as defined by British class definitions.

What remains in Kindred is  still  strong and  powerful.  The three central  performances are exceptional. The way Fiona Shaw  takes on Tamara Lawrance is  not just believable it is  intimidating. At heart this is one one Saas-Bahu drama, albeit one that we  didn’t see coming.

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