What happens when you drop a piece of sci-fi weaponry into a family drama? Kin seeks to find the answer.
Based on their earlier short Kin, directors Jonathan & Josh Baker’s film follows Elijah (Myles Truitt), a kid living in poverty whose curiosity leads him to discovering a strange, seemingly alien weapon. Whenever his older brother Jimmy (Jack Reynor) comes home from prison, he brings with him a debt to crime lord Taylor Balik (Jimmy Franco), leading the two brothers to go on the run. Meanwhile, a pair of mysterious figures follow Balik and the brothers in hopes of recovering the weapon.
It takes a while for Kin to get going. In the early stretches of the movie, we spend a lot of time in Elijah’s day-to-day routine. As he gets in trouble at school and scraps for metal in the outskirts of his neighborhood, Truitt’s understated performance gets the chance to shine. Similar to Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade, Truitt chooses to accurately represent the behaviors of an adolescent instead of trying to mimic what Hollywood thinks one acts like.
Truitt carries the movie in its first act, which goes the obligatory motions of introducing the central conflicts. This sort of thing is justifiable if the film takes this information and runs with it. Kin does this, but in an unexpected way. Despite the weapon at the center of the story, the Bakers are more interested in the fractured relationship between the two brothers.
Reynor gives one of his best performances here as a man who’s desperately trying to do right by his brother while also trying not to slip back into his old habits. Elijah and Jimmy are complex; they have fun together at moments but they also keep secrets from one another. Their struggle to find common ground is compelling because Truitt, Reynor, and screenwriter Daniel Casey never take the easy route, communicating familial pain in a way that’s not always glamorous, but is enthralling to watch because you’re really rooting for these two to sort out their differences.
That’s not to say there isn’t some good genre thrills to be had here. James Franco goes full James Franco here as a completely unhinged crime lord, who pees on a gas station attendant’s counter simply because he can. Moreover, the cinematography by Larkin Seiple is crisp, creating a rich, worn-down world that feels, well, lived in, and when the action sequences do occur, they have a good balance of flash and realism.
Even without those factors, it’s the beating heart at the center of Kin that makes it special. Quiet moments like Elijah and Jimmy’s friendship with the always excellent Zoe Kravitz’s Milly are what you’re going to remember.
There is a bit of a caveat here: in the final moments of the film, the Bakers and Casey do something extremely risky by dropping a huge twist that completely re-contextualizes what came before. This twist is intriguing, but also a bit bold and, for lack of a better word, weird, and it’s uncertain how most audiences will react to it. I know I still need to sit on it for a while.
At its core, science fiction is supposed to tell stories about humanity. Kin exemplifies that notion, telling a story that prioritizes heart over pizzazz, making something truly memorable in the process. 8/10 –James Preston Poole
Kin hits theaters August 31st!
Armed with a mysterious weapon, an ex-con and his adopted teenage brother go on the run from a vengeful criminal and a gang of otherworldly soldiers.