Tuesday, 25 October 2011

We Need to Talk about Kevin

Based on the novel by Lionel Shriver, of the same name, Lynne Ramsay's film adaptation of the novel is a chilling tale of a mother's inability to connect with her child. After a stage of depression before the child is born, the child's endless crying as a baby, the child's constant misdemeanours and the failure to connect to the child leads to a hateful relationship between mother and son. This relationship leads Kevin, the son, played by Jasper Newell (aged 8) and Ezra Miller (aged 16+) to commit acts of petty behaviour to acts that are far more extreme that brings shame and guilt to Eva (Tilda Swinton).

In only her third feature film (and first film for nine years) Lynne Ramsay adapts the source material admirably. In the novel the story is told in a series of letters from Eva to her husband, named Franklin (John C. Riley). Ramsey does a sterling job adapting the nonlinear storytelling into a series of flashbacks that alternate from the present day, where she is the most hated mother in America, to four other times zones. These times zones are Kevin's birth, Kevin as a young child, Kevin as a teenager and Kevin just days before his eighteenth birthday. Ramsey handles the nonlinear story telling so well that there is no confusion to what time frame the story currently is in. In Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby style the tension rises and events take a more sinister turn as the story reaches in inevitable climax. Lynne Ramsay's film is also glorious to look at and to listen to. It's a proper art house movie as We Need to Talk about Kevin is shot is very artistic, grand and beautiful way, which is a complete contrast to how the central plot feels as the child's actions against his mother make it seem that the child hated the mother from his birth - but is it as simple as that?

We Need to Talk about Kevin looks at how a relationship of hate between mother and son can lead to the act which Kevin committed days before his sixteenth birthday. It is debatable that the mother had never loved her own son from the very beginning and we get one scene that somewhat proves this in which Eva says 'Mummy was happy before Kevin came along' and the 'love' she showed to the child was forced and unauthentic and not natural as though she never truly loved him but felt as though she had to. The kid was a manipulative; blackmailing menace (Kevin uses a scar on his arm to have leverage over his mother). Kevin's cheeky grins give off an impression that he is purposely causing his mother's life great strain. Kevin is a quite a scary, uneasy character, his little acts of disobedience hint at a much darker side to him (which is revealed in his teenage years) and the menacing Kubrick style stare at his mother obviously resenting the play acting in which his mother is adopting when attempting to communicate with him to get him to respond. His darker side of his character is often hinted at and Ramsey drops hints of what is about to occur and as the film approaches its conclusion the tension steadily rises. What makes Kevin's behaviour even the more peculiar is that for his father he is a little angel, so why he is relentlessly torturing his mother? What led this child to such an unspeakable act? Was it the fact he was born a sociopath or was it down to the love his mother never gave to him from the very start of his life?

Mixed among the compelling but dark story (which does take a small, almost insignificant time, to kick into gear) and the artistic merits of the film are two superb performances by the central figures, in particular Tilda Swinton who plays the emotionally torn mother whose psychological battle with her son and the aftermath of his horrendous crimes he commits which in turn results in Eva become a hated woman in her own neighbourhood. Swinton (who in an interview with The Guardian admitted this film brought back tough memories) is torn between guilty feelings of her failings as a mother and belief that her son's actions were her own doing due to the lack of love she gave the child. Swinton magnificently plays a woman traumatised by the her past, a past that is affecting her present life, her house is vandalised and Eva is spooked by the local kids (there is one superb scene in which Eva is driving down her street, on Halloween, and every child wearing a Halloween mask stops to look at her, possibly elaborating on the theme of the fear of children). New comer Ezra Miller is superb and John C. Riley provides some impressive support but Swinton is clearly the best performer as her outstanding performance deserves equal praise as Ramsey's direction has been given due to the fact that Swinton is truly mesmerising, believable and convincing in the central role.

We Need to Talk about Kevin is an artistically beautiful film but in contrast, the central plot is a dark and disturbing but compelling one, Lynne Ramsey's confident, assured and top quality direction does not allow the chance for the flashbacks from the present to Eva's past to become confusing and impossible to comprehend In addition Tilda Swinton's performance is staggeringly brilliant resulting in We Need to Talk about Kevin becoming one the best films of the year and an awards contender.



  1. wow. sounds like a brilliant movie, may have to check this one out afterall. Great job, Myerla, nice review

  2. I'd really like to see this now. great review!

  3. Great review Myerla - although Eva's husband is called Franklin, rather than Francis :)