The release of We Need To Talk About Kevin close to Halloween is far from inappropriate; prepare to be disturbed. The film, directed by Lynne Ramsey, is based on the popular novel of the same name written by Lionel Shriver, which won the Orange Prize in 2005. Fans of the popular book will no doubt be eager to see how the film compares but, not having read it myself, I can assure others new to the story that it is brilliant film in its own right.
The film is shot from the perspective the eponymous Kevin’s mother, Eva, and portrays her relationship with her sociopath son. The scenes switch between past and present, pivoting around a single event- a terrible crime committed by Kevin. Memories of family life following Kevin’s growth through childhood contrast with Eva’s attempt, some years later, to come to terms with what has happened.
The film is highly stylised with powerful symbolism used throughout. Although perhaps slightly slow moving at times, at others the pacing is incredibly effective in building the palpable tension crucial to the unveiling of the story. Unconnected scenes are strung together, leaving the viewer to fill in a lot of the gaps for themselves. The film provokes you to form your own opinion of Kevin, whose portrayal is not just as a one-dimensional mentally disturbed criminal, but as an extremely complex and unfathomable boy. Indeed the most memorable moments of the film are the rare ones in which his vulnerable and child-like side is exposed. Meanwhile our perception of Eva as a mother is just as layered and though the film may be focalised from her point of view we are still presented with evidence of her failing in her parental role, forcing us to ask questions about her character.
The quality of the acting is excellent. Tilda Swinton is utterly believable as the tired, haunted Eva conveying both her fragility and great resilience; there is no doubt as to why Stylist are calling it the ‘best performance of her career’. John C. Reilly matches this high standard in his depiction of the caring but obliviously bumbling father, whilst Ezra Miller is purely chilling as Kevin.
This is not a film for the faint of heart. It is dark and unsettling, but smartly delivered and very thought-provoking. It is certain to make a strong impression on you.