Running Time: 112 minutes
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Cast: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and Ezra Miller
Kevin’s mother struggles to love her strange child, despite the increasingly vicious things he says and does as he grows up. But Kevin is just getting started, and his final act will be beyond anything anyone imagined.
BASED on the Orange Prize winning novel by Lionel Shriver, We Need To Talk About Kevin marks the welcome return of Scottish director Lynne Ramsay, returning to the director’s chair after a nine year absence. The film was nominated for the Palm D’Or at the 2011 Cannes Festival. Its controversial subject matter deals with guilt, grief, resentment and parental responsibility.
The film stars British actress Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton), as the central character Eva, a woman struggling to come to terms with the actions of her son. Ezra Miller (Afterschool) plays 15 year old Kevin who is in prison after an incident at his high school, leaving his mother to deal with the consequences. With John C Reilly (Magnolia) playing Eva’s husband Franklin.
The film opens with Eva’s character living alone, trying to carry on with her life in the aftermath of events, this successful travel writer now left to work in a local travel agency. Ostracised by her community she is verbally and physically abused paying the pennants for her son’s actions.
Cleaning paint red paint smeared on her house she recalls Kevin’s upbringing, asking herself what she did wrong. With is disjointed narrative, Ramsey uses Eva’s memories to put the pieces together in this puzzle.
Through flashback sequences it becomes clear there was little paternal bond between mother and son following Kevin’s birth. Suffering from post-natal depression Eva tells her infant son ‘mummy was happy before you came along.’ Kevin comes to epitomise Eva’s resentment at surrendering her career for a family life.
Kevin’s character has remarkable similarities to that of Damien from the Omen; he is devious and manipulative playing each parent off each other and has clear sociopathic tendencies. His actions put considerable strain on Eva and Franklin’s relationship as Franklin does not share his wife’s concerns over their son. Eva endlessly asks herself was Kevin born bad or was it her failings as a mother that made him the way he was.
Ramsay uses the colour red repeatedly throughout the film, representing Eva’s feelings of guilt over what has happened. A scene in a supermarket where Eva stands in front of a stack of red tins, hiding from a bereaved mother perfectly highlights this point; this is a woman who feels she has blood on her hands.
Radiohead fans can also enjoy a score composed by Johnny Greenwood. Some bizarre song choices which add to the strange feeling of the film, its use of Wham’s Last Christmas in a scene being one example.
Tilda Swinton, who has a producer credit for the film gives a standout performance as guilt riddled mother Eva, fantastically portraying a women who in her own words ‘is going straight to hell.’ It would be no surprise to see her name mentioned for contention come awards season. And promising things lie ahead for Ezra Miller, who terrifies as Kevin.
Ramsay’s film remarkably shot in only 30 days is a difficult film to recommend for its subject matter, yet is directed with such style and sensitivity that it is well worth a watch and is one of the standout releases of 2011. With its focus on the family it is a more accessible than Gus Van Saint’s similarly themed film Elephant.