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‘Kindred’ Review: A Dreary, Derivative Hostage Thriller

Early in this movie, when Ben (Edward Holcroft), tells his mom, Margaret (Fiona Shaw), that he and his girlfriend are planning a move from England to Australia, Shaw makes a face that looks as though a chisel has literally been taken to her jaw. Shaw is more often than not a better than capable performer, but this kind of overplaying seems endemic to “Kindred,” a derivative, irritating thriller directed by Joe Marcantonio. (The film has no relation to the Octavia Butler book of the same name, which, depending how you look at it, is fortunate or too bad.)

Margaret presides over a crumbling manor whose décor is dominated by portraits of lily-white colonialists from centuries past. In a montage, one of those pale faces is contrasted with that of Ben’s girlfriend, Charlotte (Tamara Lawrance), who is Black. Once Ben is knocked dead by a horse and Charlotte is discovered to be pregnant, Margaret and her stepson, Thomas (Jack Lowden), contrive to lock Charlotte up at the estate. The dreary picture then turns into a hostage scenario for people who thought “Get Out” was too subtle — except race is never explicitly mentioned. This is what the British call “restraint,” one supposes.

Some poorly developed symbolic hoo-ha about birds adds a mild supernatural dimension to the movie, which at times calls to mind “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Die! Die! My Darling!” — in the sense that they’re pictures one would rather be watching.

It doesn’t help that Charlotte is a completely underdeveloped character who comes off mostly as dull and ineffectual. Eventually the movie devolves into a particularly pernicious variant of torture porn. Marcantonio’s pedestrian direction is matched by Carlos Catalan’s cinematography, depicting England as an unpleasant, dull green-gray land.

Kindred
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 41 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on iTunes, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.

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