WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
Written by Lynne Ramsay and Rory Kinnear
Directed by Lynne Ramsay
Starring Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilley and Ezra Miller
Dr. Foulkes: He’s a floppy little boy, isn’t he? But there’s nothing wrong with him.
I know we’re supposed to talk about him but I have a very hard time talking about WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. (I meant to write this review three weeks ago and just couldn’t do it until now.) From the moment it opens, with a jubilant Tilda Swinton, dousing herself, the people around her and the entire screen in deep red tomatoes and their juice at the Tomatina festival, in Bunol, Spain, I was consumed by the film. The imagery and the intention were so vibrant and alive, it was almost intoxicating. And then it gets drab and ugly and we are thrown into a world where every trace of Swinton’s former life is absent. All that remains is a run down shack on what is clearly the wrong side of town. The red is still there but now its the painted curse words on the front of her home. How did her life go from one extreme to the other? She had Kevin.
Swinton is mind blowing in Lynne Ramsay’s brilliant adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s popular novel. She plays Eva Katchadourian. Once upon a time she was a successful travel agent who would travel to the most exotic of locations with her happy husband, Franklin (John C. Reilley). Like most people, her life changed when she had a baby. Before long, she and her family were leaving New York City for a quiet place in the suburbs, as they do. Eva struggled though to find happiness in her new life. She never seemed to connect with her son, Kevin (played primarily as an adult on screen by the disturbingly lanky, Ezra Miller), and began to fear there was something wrong with him. It doesn’t take too long though before she starts to suspect that Kevin is just being spiteful and directing some fairly disturbing anger solely at her. It gets so callous she can hardly seem to get the words out at some point. She loves him but she also hates him simultaneously. It’s as if she knows she is obligated to love him but cannot for the life of her figure out how to accomplish this. And for as much direct suggestion the title provides, no one ever seems to talk too much about Kevin, when clearly they should.
Ramsay slowly reveals to us in flashback how Eva fell from grace and WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN becomes a modern telling of a familiar horror story. Personally, I find it quite refreshing to see a film about an evil child that isn’t possessed by some spirit or satanic force. Kevin has done something truly horrible but we don’t know what that is, just what it did to Eva’s life and that she never abandoned him despite any of it. The back and forth in time and space, which I loved being lost in, makes it near impossible to situate yourself directly in the narrative for too long at any one time, likely very similar to the blur of Eva’s fractured mind. To piece the puzzle together means having to ask whether or not Kevin’s troubles came from his mother or perhaps whether Kevin is just plain evil. It’s nature vs. nurture but it forces us to acknowledge that if we side with nature, we must not only admit that some apples really are just bad but also remember the trees they fell not too far from.
PS. If you or anyone you know is thinking about having children, you might seriously consider seeing this first (or not).