We Need To Talk About Kevin

22 Aug

Director: Lynne Ramsey (2011)

The phrase “only a mother could love him” could not be more apt. Lynne Ramsay’s chilling We Need To Talk About Kevin, follows the terrifying tale of a mother forced to live a life of exile and personal torment in the wake of her son’s involvement in a high school massacre. What makes the story all the more terrifying is that it is one that is becoming increasingly more true to life… Unlike Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, a stylised music video of a film about a high school massacre, Ramsey turns the camera on the people who are left behind, left to face the community while the perpetrator is held in respective safety behind bars. The result, a challenging, thought provoking and intrinsically dark film about nature vs nurture and the lengths a mother’s love for her son can be stretched.

Slick and atmospheric throughout, Ramsey adapts Lionel Shriver’s novel, written in letter form, into a series of intertwined flashbacks and memories, as seen by Eva Khatchadourian (Tilda Swinton), from Kevin’s birth to their tense final meetings in prison. It is a minimal film, from its direction to the script itself, allowing the audience to fill in the silence with the inevitable frenzy of questioning that storms your mind as you watch. Is a mother’s love truly unconditional? Should it be unconditional? Even if your son is a deranged killer? And, perhaps most importantly for this film, are you ultimately to blame for the actions of your children?

Troubled by her difficult relationship with Kevin and her husband’s obliviousness to their son’s darker behaviours, Eva is alone, even when surrounded by her family. Alienated from the start, her emotional isolation soon becomes a physical one as she is left alone, trapped in a dilapidated and persistently vandalised house. From the paint that is thrown over her house to the curtains in her bedroom, Eva’s life is washed with the colour red, a constant reminder of the bloodshed her son caused – and her anguish over the blood she feels is on her hands.
John C Reilly plays her oblivious husband, kind hearted but in his ignorance and inability to recognise the truth behind Eva’s fears about their son’s behaviours – and her son’s obvious hatred of his mother – he becomes just as damaging as Kevin to Eva’s well being.
And then there’s Kevin. Famously quoted as saying he “never for a second was thinking about how to portray someone innately evil”, Ezra Miller’s transformation into Kevin is frankly, terrifying. His icy onscreen presence is true edge of your seat stuff, watching in horror as this young boy destroys his mother, abusing her physically and mentally, tearing away at the very place he knows hurts the most – her love of her family. We do not like him, but we still desperately seek some motive or explanation beyond boredom or ‘disaffected youth’ that would warrant his brutal actions. Miller gives a truly astonishing performance and is sure to be a shining light for young acting talent for the future.

A nightmarish vision of motherhood suggesting a reality behind the Rosemary’s Baby conundrum of spawning the devil’s child, We Need To Talk About Kevin is a horrendous insight into the lives and minds of the unseen victims of these horrific crimes.

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One Response to “We Need To Talk About Kevin”

  1. Charie Dawn October 10, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    I’m really interested in watching this movie. I think this is the first time I’ve heard about a movie adapation (I guess I’m really late). Thanks for this!

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