Kindred, the latest feature from IFC Midnight, tells the story of a young widow who suspects her lover’s family has more than just her well-being in mind. Seemingly forced to stay under their care, and surrounded by those with like motives, Charlotte (Tamara Lawrance) battles against all odds to maintain rights to the life of her child.
I sat down with Tamara Lawrence to talk more about the role.
Charlotte and her boyfriend, Ben (Edward Holcroft) are a young couple on the precipice of their lives. They are planning a move from England to Australia when Charlotte discovers (to her dismay) that she’s pregnant. Margaret (the incomparable Fiona Shaw), is Ben’s mother and already has misgivings about the move. She becomes even more agitated when she realizes that Charlotte is with child and still plans on leaving. After a tragedy occurs, Charlotte must battle with demons, both inside and out.
The Geekiary: I love that Charlotte is kind of alternative, very young, but not a mother’s worst nightmare. She’s opinionated and independent and strong. Tell me about what drew you to the role and her character.
Tamara Lawrance: I was drawn to the film because of the enigma it was. I didn’t know what to make of it. I liked that [the ending] wasn’t so conclusive and there was an element of discussion that could come from the other end. I liked that Charlotte was not maternal.
Charlotte is a woman who is still trying to establish her own life and family. With a child comes a loss of independence and personal agency. We see that her fears are correct, but in new and impossible ways.
TL: I was drawn to the depiction of a young woman who was not stereotypically reared. Not wanting to have kids and a husband and car and house and those being her highest ambition. I thought it was important to give a voice to other experiences that people have with motherhood and additionally her, herself not having a good experience with her mother.
Charlotte’s mother suffered from perinatal psychosis which includes symptoms like increased paranoia, delusions, and irritation during her pregnancy with Charlotte. Afterward she was very cold and that impacted Charlotte’s views not only on family, but on having a family of her own.
TL: It was very important to clarify Charlotte’s relationship with her mum. I developed some childhood memories in particular around learning piano around abusive outbursts from her mum, watching a single parent despise you. I looked into lots of stories from parents who hated their kids. A lot of mothers have struggled for a long time.
Caught between the throes of impending, possibly hereditary mental illness and her own experiences, we see Charlotte’s journey through a very traumatic lens.
Kindred at its heart is less a horror movie and more of a psychological thriller. It’s slow, but not plodding, and lets you feel the time pass so you understand how the paranoia builds and you question whether or not Charlotte is falling prey to her past, or if she really has been abducted.
Three’s Company Too
TG: What was it like working primarily with Fiona Shaw (Harry Potter) and Jack Lowden (Dunkirk)? What was the dynamic like on set?.
TL: I loved it because it was basically a three-hander, just three people in very intimate scenes. The dynamic on set was very playful and inquisitive. There was lots of organic discussion that came from our time together, even small things like, What kind of cane would Margaret be holding? What’s her relationship to whiskey? Jack was always asking questions about [his character] Thomas. He never showed up thinking the job was just on-page.
Getting in the ring with real heavyweights gave Lawrance a chance to learn and to make choices that instigated and invigorated the choices her co-actors made.
TL: I put the same amount of work and thought into Charlotte’s relationship with Ben. [Edward and I] went on a couple of “dates”, first through the studio and then on our own. We sussed out that Charlotte and Ben met in uni.
Ben would have been an upperclassman studying animal nursing who was assigned to help Charlotte with her studies. Lawrence also believes that she and Margaret never got along because perhaps Ben had a childhood sweetheart that Margaret found more suitable and she saw Charlotte as a leach.
TL: There are hints toward this, where Charlotte says, “That was my house”, and Margaret says, “Well, that was Ben’s house”. Or when Ben says, “Charlotte learned to drive.” and Margaret goes, “Oh yeah, that’s useful.” as in, nothing I’ve done before has been.
There’s another scene where Margaret solely blames Charlotte for Ben’s demise. These details may seem small, but help establish and ground the characters. It normalizes the environment so when abnormal (paranormal?) activities start, you really start to question whose reality we’re in.
I Am Woman. Hear Me.
TG: The subject of partum depression is very interesting. Women are brought into this very patrifocal world and there are only a few things for them to “do”. Get married and have children. When women tie motherhood to femininity and then go through the disconnect of not responding “normally” to that, it can be a very stressful experience. Charlotte talks about her mother and we find it odd because “she’s a mother”, but actually she’s a woman and women are people and they go through the same ranges of emotion. Was the process of Charlotte going through that range built into your performance?
TL: Definitely! I spoke to Joe about pushing the limit of when she decides – at some point in the script it felt like she relented and came ‘round to the idea of the baby too soon. I thought it would be more interesting if she maintains a sense of disconnection from it for a longer period, but recognizing after a certain trimester, the baby’s not going anywhere, anytime soon. She lacks a lot of agency over her own body. If she can’t control her own body, she can control this baby. She uses the baby in a sense to regain control back from the fear of mental illness.
The fear of her mother’s mental illness and continuing the cycle of abuse are dizzying factors on their own. It’s given Charlotte a disconnected idea of what family, or kindred even is. But when added with being kept indefinitely under your defacto in-law’s roof, drugged, and gaslit to hell, it can be a lot to deal with. There are smaller stories and characters that tie into the plot that only serve to keep the movie anchored in sand. You can never find your footing which is exactly the way Charlotte feels. It’s terrifying and also exhilarating.
Shades of Grey
TG: In America, we had a recent summer of racial unrest where we saw an upheaval of systems that we’ve lived with for so long. Watching the film through that lens, I felt a great longing at Charlotte being gaslit not just as a woman, but as a black woman. Black women die at disproportionate rates at hospitals and I’ve heard horror stories of them being gaslight during doctor’s visits. Was it a part of your process to consider the racial aspect of being the sole Black woman in this closed, White community?
TL: It was for me, but I don’t think it was for Charlotte. I think, me as Tamara, am very much attuned to and aware of those things. But Charlotte, she’s chosen to leave everything for her boyfriend. I don’t think it would be particularly useful to her if she was walking about like, everybody hates me and everyone is racist to me. I don’t think that’s something she would hold in her consciousness because otherwise, it would be very difficult to spend two years with her partner in a very White country.
TG: I think that’s another part of it. That you have to build that wall in order to maintain.
TL: Completely. It’s interesting to see the racial overtones from her being a Black woman so I’m curious to see what kind of discussion arises from the gaslighting. It definitely takes on an interesting resonance. But I leave that up to the viewers. That’s part of the discussion which is important to have.
One for Sorrow, Two for Joy, Three for Murder.
The original title for Kindred was Corvidae which symbolizes the crow family or kindred. Animal imagery plays a big part in adding unsettling elements to the film’s discomfiting atmosphere.
TL: Joe got the original idea because of the pecking order of crows, the symbolism with Marge being the head of the household and needing the people around her to kind of fill in her shoes and take on the throne of this kind of decrepit monarchy. [Crows are] the harbingers of doom and bad omens. Horses symbolize the desire for freedom and forward movement in your life, but also issues with power and authority.
We see horses become Charlotte’s savior and detriment in fascinating ways throughout. As she unravels, the animals play more and more of a role in invading her psyche and fueling her paranoia. Kindred keeps you guessing to the end, and even after.
TL: Ultimately, I want there to be a discussion. It would make me very happy if a group of friends were to see it and discussed the different details and debated scenes. If they create an investigation into what they just witnessed. Whether people love or hate it is of less importance than if there’s a chat that comes from it.
Kindred is a thrilling, gorgeously acted, and perfectly paced film. It makes you think and causes you to question your empathies throughout. It’s a watch that will leave you begging to discuss. After you’ve screened Kindred, come back here and tell us what you thought!
Kindred is available Friday, November 6th on IFC Midnight.
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