Friday, December 23, 2011

We Need to Talk About Kevin

By s. Friday, December 23, 2011 , , , , , ,
91/100 (112 min, 2011)
Plot: The mother of a teenage boy who went on a high-school killing spree tries to deal with her grief - and feelings of responsibility for her child's actions.
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Writers: Lynne Ramsay (screenplay), Rory Kinnear (screenplay), Lionel Shrivel (novel)
Stars: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and Ezra Miller

There is no point

"We Need to Talk About Kevin" is one of the most harrowing and bleak movies of the year. Think - "Blue Valentine", "The Road" and "Mulholland Drive" - there is very little hope there and mostly just human suffering. The film features another one in the long line of Tilda Swinton's superb performances, it's also highly controversial due to its subject matter - is it possible that a child can be pure evil? Is it really a mother's duty to love it, no matter what?

Although every single synopsis of the movie tells us what happened, we don't actually get to see it until the end of the film - what Kevin did is shown though flashbacks and Eva's memory - his mother, who is left alive and is forced to live with the consequences of what her son did. The movie has very interesting narrative and it looks as if it was heavily inspired by David Lynch's work, especially "Inland Empire" - as with many of his movies, there is a very prominent use of symbolic colors - Eva is constantly surrounded of red, symbolizing her guilt, which is always there with her - there are also many goofy moments, usually delivered by odd choices of music, quick cuts and the sense of overwhelming menace.
In its first moments "We need to talk about Kevin" unique narrative plays almost as if it was a horror movie and it takes you some time to adjust to it. Because we see everything from Eva's point of view it is certain she is not a reliable narrator that's why Kevin's character seems to be quite flat and his actions never cause a doubt in her mind. She had troubles since she got birth to him - he wouldn't stop crying, she had no idea how to handle the situation. After a while the whole situation turn into a power struggle between the child and his mother - which is quite disturbing.

The relationship between the mother and her children is almost always considered to be a sacred bond, something that happens naturally and causes great pain when severed. But as I watched Eva got back home from witnessing what her son did I couldn't help but think that she must be glad she is finally free from that burden.
"We need to talk about Kevin" raises a lot of question and because it is a story shown through one person's eyes, rarely provides answers. After what happened Eva could have gone out of town, without dealing with the reminders of what happened daily. I think she chose to stay because she felt in some way responsible. It is an impossible situation - to determine what is the parent responsible of, especially when it comes to disturbed, manipulative child.

The two rays of hope we see in the movie come from one of the boys who was miraculously saved during shooting asking her how she was doing, clearly didn't blaming her for her son's action and just before the end of the movie - the hug that occurs there probably puzzles a lot of people. But that is the moment, for the first time, Kevin shows that maybe he is capable of positive emotions after all. Eva is affectionate towards him, because in a very twisted and sad way, he is all she has left.

The film is quite difficult to watch - it's very disturbing to see a child doing so many horrible things, even when they are seemingly little at times, to his own mother. Also there is quite a lot which is only hinted and not shown, which forces us to imagine the awful things Kevin did. Especially when they are concerning his younger sister, a child who loved her mother and Eva loved it back, it's difficult to process all of that. At times the movie made me think of "Orphan" and "The Omen", but the scariest thing was that there are no supernatural forces or good explanations for Kevin's actions - he simply wanted to hurt others, especially his own mother. It's hard to imagine something like this, but sadly, it's very real.
Swinton's performance is excellent - she owns the movie and creates extremely complex character, even when she doesn't have any lines in some scenes. Although I can't imagine not loving my own child and not getting special help after some of the things that happened in the movie, I could understand her character. There is one point in the film when Kevin does something drastic in the film - but Eva nor his father react by getting the psychiatrist involved because the father blames Eva and she isn't certain if what happened wasn't her fault - the scene is inter cut with the shot of Eva in the present washing red paint off her hands. She doesn't remember if she really did it, she has no certainty if it was Kevin as she suspects. But she is his mother and maybe even subconsciously she would rather took the blame herself.

The cinematography and editing is what brings a lot of suspense to the film - sometimes it almost plays like modern "Rosemary's Baby" with red light disturbingly shining on Swinton's thighs during the conception of the baby. Other actors in the movie are hidden in Swinton's shadow, but they are doing a good job. Ezra Miller who plays Kevin is quite unmemorable, which ironically adds to the menace of his actions, making him seem as any teenager. The movie is heavy, but it's also a poignant portrait of somebody who gave birth to a person, responsible for the loss of many lives and the overwhelming guilt that comes with it.


  1. Very good film, I want to review it too, left me with a lot of questions and is in my top 10 films from 2011.
    Did you catch the interviews Roger Ebert did with Tilda Swinton? interesting stuff:

  2. No, I didn't see that one, thanks for the link I'll be sure to read it!

  3. The hardest watch in a long time. Swinton more than deserved a shot at Oscar.

    1. It was really an incredibly heavy film. Tilda was so amazing in it!