We Need to Talk About Kevin, 2011.
Directed by Lynne Ramsay.
Starring John C. Reilly, Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, Siobhan Fallon, Ursula Parker and Ashley Gerasimovich.
A mother attempts to deal with her guilt and grief over her son, who is responsible for a high-school killing spree.
Having seen posters dotted around various tube stations I was very eager to see Lynne Ramsay’s third film We Need to Talk About Kevin. Adapted from Lionel Shriver’s best selling novel, it primarily tells the story of psychopath Kevin (played by three different actors at various stages of his life but in his teens by Ezra Miller). We see through flashbacks that ever since he was was a toddler Kevin had a hatred towards his mother (Tilda Swinton) and caused her no end of grief with his disobedience and often destructive behaviour. Along with his Dad (John C. Reilly) and a few years later his sister (Ashley Gerasimovich) we see how the family dynamic changes along with Kevin’s progressively abnormal behaviour.
This film is being ‘sold’ to audiences with the notion that this is the performance of Tilda Swinton’s career (to quote one promotional poster directly). Swinton, broken down expression and glass of red wine in hand throughout, does put in what seems to be a very exhausting day at the office however personally I didn’t think her performance was anything too spectacular. Yes she does portray the character of Eva well but a lot of the reviews I have seen of her performance are a little over the top.
Esra Miller is convincing as Kevin, creating a haunting and demonic a deeply disturbing teenager who is dangerously skilled with a bow and arrow (this trait makes sense in the film). John C. Reilly provides some welcome comic relief in places, however I did find that my mind wondered in parts. I felt at times the narrative was repetitive - a flash-back of Kevin causing havoc and then his mother in present time suffering as a consequence of his later horrific crime. I am aware of the need to create this back story though, and although slow sometimes it does paint the appropriate picture of Kevin’s character and the devastating effect his behaviour has on other people.
I have to admit that I have not read the novel on which this film is based, but I will get my hands on a copy as soon as I can as I’m interested in how the story is written in a book as well as played out screen. Although some of my comments may seem a little negative it is mostly entertaining and I did find myself becoming increasingly more curious as to what happens to Kevin’s father and sister in the wake of his crime. The film is poetically shot but the posters oversell this movie in my opinion. It is still worth a watch though but if I were you I wouldn’t get your hopes up. Maybe that way you will find it more rewarding and not feel slightly let down like I did.
Jon Dudley is a freelance film and television journalist and his 17-minute short film Justification was shown at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.