We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)


Director: Lynne Ramsay
Cast: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and Ezra Miller

Isn’t it strange how some films, which make you squirm uncomfortably the whole time you’re watching it, can also be so incredibly captivating? The subject matter of this film, based on the book of the same name, is the disturbed mind of a teenage sociopath, an unflinching examination of how a child might develop, or be moulded into, a monster.

The plot:
The film makes its climax apparent from the very beginning. A terrible event, a mass killing in a local high school, has taken place. The mother of the young killer, Eva (Swinton), is struggling to cope with events, and to get her life back on track. As she does so, she has a series of flashbacks, recalling a number of telltale signs regarding her son, Kevin’s (Miller), unusual condition.

To make one thing clear, if you plan on having kids in the near future, steer well clear of this film. Every nightmarish situation involving screaming, tantrums, and over populated nappies come to the foreground in hideous detail within this grim story.

Despite the horrific material it deals with, We Need to Talk About Kevin walks the fine line dividing intense drama and horror. It isn’t a scary film. But it is one of the furthest extremes of horror ever committed to the screen. Eva is a tortured soul. The transformation between her younger, healthier self, before she has had Kevin, and herself in the present day, is frightening. She becomes wraith-like, wan and lifeless. And while this appearance does not change between flashbacks, you will find yourself becoming more and more aware of it as you realise what she has gone through.

Kevin himself is a character that you will love to hate, similarly fascinating and hateful. Psychoanalysts and therapists alike will have an absolute field day analyzing his behaviour. There are several suggestions of a perverted Oedipus complex at work here. However, the film itself doesn’t offer any straightforward answers. It is clear that Kevin’s mind is one that is completely warped. Yet how this comes about, what exactly his condition is, or what his motives are, if any, is never revealed.

The film hangs primarily on the chemistry, or lack thereof, between Eva and Kevin. Both actors handle their roles exceptionally well, with Swinton giving the performance of a lifetime. Supporting actors, such as Eva’s estranged husband, Franklin (Reilly), handle their material well also, but these are merely sideshows to the main attraction.

The film is shot beautifully. Many scenes are presented in a dull, grey haze, pierced only occasionally by flashes of red. These act as representations of the bloodshed that is constantly threatening to rear its ugly head at the film’s conclusion. The most obvious example of this occurs in the opening minutes of the film. Eva’s house, in the present day, is splattered with red paint. She spends the majority of her scenes, in the present, attempting to scrub her walls clean, with scrubbing brushes, sanders, blades, etc. As these scenes always lead into flashback, it is clear that the red paint is emblematic of the memories she is trying so hard to forget.

Overall:
It is an uncomfortable film to watch, a horrifying film that, strangely, cannot be classed as horror. However, We Need to Talk About Kevin will hook you from the very beginning, and refuse to let go long after the credits have rolled. To sum it up simply, this film is like crushing a big spider beneath a book. You know it’s going to be unpleasant underneath, but you just have to look anyway, for reasons you can’t really explain.

Awful Rating: 8/10

There is no point. That’s the point.” – Kevin

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