While “Kindred Spirits” is a fairly straightforward thriller, McKee again demonstrates how skilled he is at drawing the viewers in and making us care.
Kindred Spirits is the latest thriller from Lucky McKee, who is probably best known for his indie thrillers such as May (2002) and The Woman (2011). Both look to explore unconventional themes within a normal everyday suburban setting. And, while at times they can be uncomfortable to watch, they draw you in and make it almost impossible to look away.
In Lucky’s latest film, Chloe (Thora Birch) is a single mother who is struggling to connect with her daughter Nicole (Sasha Frolova) and trying to show concern following her recent wayward behavior. Thus, it seems like perfect timing when Chloe’s estranged younger sister Sadie (Caitlin Stasey) makes an unexpected return after a long and unexplained absence. Her return signals a chance to rekindle her close relationship with both Chloe and Nicole.
Sadie she seems to naturally reconnect with Nicole. They appear to be, as the title suggest, kindred spirits. And Chloe begins to feel that her return is having a positive influence on both their lives. But all is not at it seems. There is more sinister agenda behind Sadie’s return. And behind her naive innocence lies a troubled woman who will not stop until she gets what she has come back for.
There are some powerful performances from the talented cast.
This includes Sasha Frolova, who plays the strong-willed Nicole. Here sense of loss and insecurities seem to fuel her troubled angst. With a standoffish attitude, there are elements which portray her as an outsider. But surprisingly, there is also a warmth to her character towards those that are able to get close to her. She also exhibits a vulnerability which suggests she truly needs those who do manage to get close.
Thora Birch delivers a solid performance as Chloe. She feels weighted by the responsibility of remaining the parental figure within the group. Unfortunately for her, it is her authoritative nature as a concerned parent which stops her from getting close to her daughter — and from developing a closer relationship with fellow single parent Alex (Macon Blair).
The most impressive performance for me, however, comes from Caitlin Stasey.
She delivers a convincing portrayal of the unbalanced Sadie, who seems obsessed and unable to let go of her childhood innocence. There is an infectious playfulness to her nature. So you can understand why those around seem to warm to her, even though some of her childlike reactions automatically raise alarm bells.
Sadie’s personality perhaps doesn’t change as you would typically expect from a thriller, where the normal outward persona is just a smoke screen for a more vicious temperament. We do see a more violent side to her character. But the main change involves her retreating back into a more adolescent nature, with a childlike insecurity and a coy nature — but also a jealous rage inside.
There are several moments in her performance that added to her character’s unnerving persona. There was the occasional look she would give, like a suggestive glance or a vacant stare that spoke volumes in silence. This was used subtly enough to avoid it become overwhelming as a psychological tic for the character.
She also displays a lack of empathy while she is manipulating people, or even committing murder. She conducts these acts like they are just part of an everyday routine. Apart from covering her tracks, there is no concern regarding the consequences, even though she knows how the events are likely to play out.
As a thriller, Kindred Spirits does follow some familiar themes which have been seen before. And the film doesn’t look to deviate away from the usual formula.
However, it is the intricate and often fragile relationships of the characters which make the film work and keep you transfixed.
As the story unfolds, we get a real sense of who the characters are as they try to deal with their own personal issues. So when the inevitable violence does start to occur, it creates such a powerful impact.
The film focuses on building the atmosphere and anticipation. Although there are a few gory moments, there is not as much violence as you may expect. And a lot of the violence occurs off screen before moving in on the aftermath. There are also a few dark comedy moments (or maybe that’s just me), which leave an impact on the viewer and keep you teetering between wincing at the pain and laughter.
Visually, the film creates some dreamlike moments, as Nicole and Sadie become lost in their own playful imaginations.
In the present, this is brilliantly captured with the free-moving camerawork which follows the girls playing around. But it is in the flashback sequences where we see a young Sadie (Valeria Jauregui) and Nicole (Olivia Rose Lazell) that produce are some of the film’s most visually creative moments. The blurred edges of the screen distort the images. This enhances the bright sunlight streaming in through the trees and the deliberately bright colors, as the innocent laughter of Nicole echoes along with the carousel-style musical scoring.
The score from Joe Kraemer brilliantly complements the events with a somewhat familiar whimsical and playful tone. For the most part, this seems to encapsulate the personality of Sadie. But with that being said, this theme does gradually descend into a more tense and menacing tone as the events begin to take a darker turn — and Sadie’s real intentions become ever clearer.
If there are any weakness to the film, it is the final events which seem all too rushed.
The final twist unravels far too quickly compared to the previous events, which have been building up quite slowly. This creates quite an abrupt and unbalanced ending. It almost feels as though the ending was not originally intended and has been added on as an additional scene to tie up and conclude the story. It doesn’t take anything away from the overall film, and the performance in the final scene is excellent. But unfortunately, it does end the events in an anti-climactic way.
Kindred Spirits is a more straightforward thriller from director Lucky McKee, which doesn’t look to break down the boundaries in regard to the delivery. But that doesn’t matter. McKee really succeeds in developing the characters. And when he starts to tear their lives apart, you really care about them. It may not be as emotional as May or as shocking as The Woman.
But as a slow developing thriller, this is a future cult film which I would recommend people to check out.