Sci-fi meets family drama meets crime thriller. It sounds a little out there, but this is where the story of 'Kin' takes us. From a first-time feature writing/directorial team, this ambitious amalgamation of genres could have been an absolute disaster - but instead, it comes together in a surprisingly cohesive and entertaining manner.
Eli (newcomer Myles Truitt) has had it pretty rough - he was adopted by his parents as a young child, but his mother has recently passed away, leaving his tough dad Hal (Dennis Quaid, ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’, ‘The Day After Tomorrow’) to care for him as best he can. When his older brother Jimmy (Jack Reynor, ‘Free Fire’, ‘Sing Street’, ‘Macbeth’) gets out of prison, the situation at home gets even more tense. While scrapping in an abandoned building, Eli discovers a futuristic weapon, and takes it home with him. But when Jimmy is unable to pay back a debt to criminal Taylor Balik (James Franco, ‘The Disaster Artist’, ‘Why Him?’, ‘Spring Breakers’), Jimmy narrowly escapes and takes Eli on the run. Chased by police, Balik and deadly soldiers after the mysterious weapon, Jimmy and Eli have to rely on each other to survive.
Despite the promotional material for ‘Kin’, the film is definitely focused on the family drama and road trip elements much more heavily than the sci-fi. Rather, the latter is interwoven throughout the script as a means of giving the brothers an advantage over their pursuers and to further add complications to their situation. This works on the whole, but the science fiction storyline does escalate a little at the very end of the film, which may not sit well with some viewers.
The strength of ‘Kin’ lies in the relationship between the brothers, and the dynamic between newcomer Myles Truitt and Jack Reynor is impressive. This isn’t a usual loving family scenario - these two are of different age, race, and worldly outlook, and Jimmy is pretty much one of the shittiest older brothers you could ask for - bringing a 14-year-old kid on the run whilst drinking profusely, taking him to strip clubs and convincing him to join you on heists doesn’t necessarily make him an ideal role model. However, they do have an endearing relationship, and the two actors work well against each other to bring depth to their characters.
This dynamic is strengthened even further when Milly (Zoë Kravitz, TV’s ‘Big Little Lies’, the ‘Divergent’ series, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’) joins the duo, bringing a very maternal element to the film. In an unconventional role for Kravitz, and it’s great to see her sinking her teeth into it; the on-screen relationship between Milly and Eli may be one of the best things about the film.
The on-screen relationship between Milly (Zoë Kravitz) and Eli (Myles Truitt) may be one of the best things about the film.
‘Kin’ comes to us courtesy of Australian directing twins, Jonathan and Josh Baker. Based off their short film ‘Bag Man’, they used this to attract their impressive cast and the likes of Michael B. Jordan (‘Black Panther’, ‘Creed’, ‘Fruitvale Station’) as the film’s executive producer. They’ve done a great job with the attention to detail in the film too - for what would be a low-budget Hollywood film, they’ve made the most of every dollar. Visually impressive, they’ve gone for a very symmetrical cinematography style, balancing grungy dark looks with bold and bright colours. The special effects are also noteworthy - tastefully done and never over-the-top, they again support the sci-fi angle taking a back seat to the brothers’ story.
A solid offering from a clearly talented creative team, ‘Kin’ is a very different kind of family drama. There are times, particularly as the second act goes on, where it does become obvious that the story was based off a short film, and events do become a little episodic. Still, this shouldn’t deter you from checking it out - with such an exciting cast and a fantastic debut from the Baker brothers, it only goes to prove old stories can be retold in intriguing new ways.