We Need To Talk About Kevin - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
GIVEN its sensitive subject matter, adapting Lionel Shriver’s best-selling novel We Need To Talk About Kevin was always going to be a tricky proposition. But that’s what makes Lynne Ramsay’s film even more impressive.
Disturbing yet gripping, shocking but well considered and utterly thought provoking, this is a gut wrenching film that’s designed to leave audiences feeling drained.
It’s not perfect and could definitely have benefited from a little more shades of grey in its depiction of one of its main characters. But it’s a film that grips while haunting you afterwards.
Employing a narrative that drifts back and forth in time, the film unfolds from the perspective of Tilda Swinton’s mother Eva as she attempts to come to terms with, or even understand, the events that led to a High School massacre at the hands of her son.
In the present, Eva cuts a lonely, haunted figure, a woman who has become a social pariah within her community, whose attempts to move on in some small way are continually thwarted by the often violent reminders around her.
But as flashbacks reveal her relationship with her son, Kevin (played from baby to teen by, respectively, Rock Duer, Jasper Newell and Ezra Miller), the burden of blame begins to blur.
And therein lies the film’s power. Is Kevin purely evil or did a lack of nurturing slowly manifest the monster within?
Ramsay, for her part, refuses to directly point any fingers of blame in that regard, opting instead to build towards the type of senseless crime that is all the more harrowing given its proximity to real headlines.
And throughout, Kevin is a terrifying creation… admittedly one who sometimes conforms more to horror stereotype than real-life (the one criticism of Ramsay’s otherwise excellent direction), but whose manipulation of those around him and media awareness sends a shiver down the spine.
Swinton, too, is immense in a very difficult role, challenging viewers to question her motives at all times as well as her ability to provide responsible parenting or even garner sympathy.
And she’s well supported by John C Reilly as her husband, even though he could have benefited from a few more scenes and a little extra depth.
Ramsay, though, ensures that her film succeeds in spite of its flaws by virtue of her fearless approach to the subject matter.
Her style may require viewers to stay on their toes but it only contributes to the heady feeling it leaves. For this is a film that really does leave you devastated, by virtue of a sucker punch ending that really hits home hard.
Watch the trailer:
Running time: 112mins
London Film Festival Premiere: October 17, 2011
UK Release Date: October 21, 2011