I’d be lying if I said We Need To Talk About Kevin, is about an innocent boy who grows up to be a tragic villain, like Anakin Skywalker, from the Star Wars prequels. Truth is, Kevin is a monster from the start. He’s presented as a devil child, an omen, a bad seed – you get the picture.
This film shows him as a baby through to his teenage years, seen through the eyes of his mother, Eva (Tilda Swindon). She’s surely the unluckiest mum in the world, having been given the unfortunate job of raising a psychopath. Worst of all is that she never wanted kids in the first place, much to the annoyance of her husband, Franklin (John C. Reilly).
The plot hinges on Eva’s struggle to come to terms with her son and the horrendous crime he commits. In the present day, Kevin is in prison for his deeds and Eva is a pill-popping drinker, haunted by her past. Swinton portrays her as a ghost, confined to her house and blinded by an event she is not responsible for. So, the movie looks back on Eva’s memories of her son growing up.
As Kevin endures a turbulent childhood, tormenting his mother and portraying a happy, loving son when his father is around, the three different actors (excluding the baby) are sublime: embodying a bitter, twisted and sullen personality down to the tiniest detail. As a child, he resists toilet training, resents his baby sister and shows no interest in bonding with Eva. Many years on as a teenager and nothing has changed – Kevin’s dark side grows and so do Eva’s fears.
But all kids act up, don’t they? What did Eva do wrong? How can a good person spawn a bad child? You see, We Need to Talk About Kevin voices the hidden fears about being a parent. I do see the original novel as superior, in terms of how it explores parental fears. The book’s presentation of Kevin is much more ambiguous, while the film decides for itself that he’s inherently evil.
Still, there’s always the sense that Kevin’s behaviour could be stopped if, you know, his parents properly addressed it. Eva receives little support from Franklin, who’s been duped by Kevin’s false pretences, refusing to believe there is anything wrong with their son. There’s no discussion of professional help or therapy when it’s clearly needed. So for years, Eva tries as best she can to manage her life with a difficult child.
This is Eva’s film, her heart and memories, shown through creepy, intellectual montages. I can’t remember the last time I was so absorbed by the editing in a film. Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey has done a masterful job here.
In this blend of horror and drama, the pseudo-arty filming style unravels a complex relationship between a mother and a child. Kevin is more of a supporting character, always lurking as an ever-present nightmare in Eva’s life. With finely tuned characters, ugly moments, powerful performances and a shocking final act, we have a haunting tale of a family’s implosion.
This film is heavy-handed and intense, but the style fulfils a wider purpose, as the flashbacks replace the letters in the book. All things considered, We Need to Talk About Kevin is excellent and it’ll stay on your mind for days.
Check out the trailer below!
Director: Lynne Ramsey
Writers: Lynne Ramsey (screenplay), Ron Stewart Kinnear (screenplay), Lionel Shiver (novel)
Stars: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller, Jasper Newell, Ashley Gerasimovich
Distributor: Artificial Eye (UK), Oscilloscope (US)
Run Time: 112 minutes