The cast/crew bit: written & directed by Lynne Ramsey, starring Tilda Swinton, John C Riley and Ezra Miller
The ten-word synopsis: Mother struggles to come to terms with her sons’ actions.
I have not read the book on which this film is based. While I’m aware that apparently it was an ‘Unfilmable’ narrative, I couldn’t comment on what an achivement it may or may not be to turn it into a successful motion picture. Nor could I comment on whether or not We Need To Talk About Kevin lives up to the hefty reputation that particular novel seems to carry. What I can comment on, however, is just how good a film Lynne Ramsey has managed to make.
It’s not a film for everyone. That’s important to establish. This is an arthouse movie about a mother having a psychological unravelling over the course of 18 years. It’s a film with lots of long, unvoiced pauses and lingering shots. It’s a film with a minimal amount of action scenes. However, that’s but one rather negative way of looking at it- We Need To Talk About Kevin is a film that uses these features to its advantage. It’s a film that relies on every shot. There are no needlessly long scenes or pointless lines of dialogue. Every moment pools together to create a unique and chilling atmosphere.
The vast majority of these moments are reliant on the aforementioned mother, Eva, portrayed by Tilda Swinton. Considering the screentime Swinton gets, there are not actually that many lines for her to deliver, her performance instead being foremost a physical one. It’s the little details that count. So much more of the character of Eva is picked up in what she doesn’t do, rather than what she does do. It’s impossible to praise Swinton enough, she’s the heart and soul of the film. Everything revolves around her, featuring in nearly every single scene. She’s a fascinating character, and one that is likely to prey on your mind for some time after you see the film.
The main thought-provoking epicentre of the film, though, is her son, Kevin himself. Indeed we do need to talk about him. The film doesn’t give you answers, (In fact, much the opposite) leaving so much interpretation up to the audience. We’re also left to guess and assume as to the nature of the pairs relationship. There are obvious themes of spite and bitterness between them, but as to where and how these feelings come to be, and who’s to blame, the film masterfully leaves it open to interpretation.
The film is undeniably harrowing. The detail is the killer here. We see Kevins’ entire life leading up to the terrible incident he commits. We understand who he is, even if we do not understand why. While Ezra Miller is good as the teenage version of Kevin, capturing the kind of pain and silent madness the character clearly revels in, his younger self (Played by Jasper Newell) is really impressive. Personally, I’d call it one of the finest child acting displays I’ve ever seen. It’s a slightly off-beat performance, purposely so. A lot of credit has to go to Ramsey for her ability to get the absolute best out of literally everybody in the film.
There are moments of genuine shock. The lingering nature of the camerawork means that they hit harder. There’s no attempt to soften the events that happen at the end of the film. The very finish features a conversation that has a sept into my conscience. It really resonated with me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that view. Thankfully, Ramsey avoids the temptation to show any of the violence involved in bloody detail, making the said shock purely human, and it’s a better film for it.
It’s not for everyone, but the themes it touches affect everyone. It’s about the influence parents have on their children, and the power the children can have over the parents. There are themes of madness and unravelling and the inability to cope. It somehow avoids the trap of slipping into dullness, remaining pacey and gripping throughout. You can read it any number of ways. It’s not far off being as good as this film possibly could have been. That book certainly has something to live up to…
7 virus-contaminated discs out of 10