By Erykah Brackenbury – After almost a decade, Lynne Ramsay returns to directing with We Need to Talk About Kevin, bringing true horror into the suburban lifestyle.
By Erykah Brackenbury
After almost a decade, Lynne Ramsay returns to
directing with We Need to Talk About
Kevin, bringing true horror into the suburban lifestyle.
Adapted from Lionel Shriver’s award-winning
epistolary novel, the film raises issues so rarely asked about motherhood. What
if some women aren’t innate caregivers? What happens when such an individual is
charged with bringing up a volatile child?
Cutting between the
present and the past, Ramsay almost exclusively centres on Eva (Tilda Swinton). Despite Kevin (Ezra Miller) being a key figure in the
narrative he is seen only from Eva’s biased perspective, capturing the novel’s
The film differs from
traditional ‘high school massacre’ narratives by focusing on the home. Kevin’s
eventual act is barely seen, the plot more concerned on exploring how Kevin
reached this point and how Eva copes afterwards. Whilst Kevin’s act is one of
violence, the psychological impact on those left behind is more important to
Eva is the rarest of
Hollywood mothers – one who resents her child. Having given up a successful
career and a love of travelling for a stifling suburban lifestyle, she simply
cannot cope with such an unresponsive child. From the off, Eva feels that Kevin
is taunting her. He seemingly cries only when she is alone with him, acting as
a normal happy baby when father Franklin (John
C. Reilly) gets home from work. Ramsay peppers the film with rich,
exuberant reds, symbolising Eva’s simultaneous love and anger towards her
When Eva finally snaps and
tells Kevin she was happy before he arrived, the dilemma is set. Is Kevin
merely innately bad or is it Eva’s resentment and unhappiness that cultivated
such a volatile individual?
John C. Reilly is woefully
underused as Kevin’s father. He exists only as a foil for Eva: positive and
upbeat, trying nothing more than to be friends with his son. It is suggested
that this friendship rather than parenting contributed towards Kevin’s damaged
psyche but Franklin’s involvement is never properly addressed. For a narrative
about the importance and impact of parenting, for one of the two to be almost
entirely neglected seems a bizarre choice by Ramsay, who adapted the screenplay
with partner Rory Kinnear.
Tilda Swinton is excellent
in both halves of the narrative, switching between sheer frustration at Kevin’s
unresponsive nature and the numbness of the survivor with ease. Ezra Miller
tries his best as Kevin but, by the point the film reaches his teenage years,
the character has become a one-note cliché. Kevin’s calmly sadistic nature is
captured well by Miller but sadly he is overshadowed by younger actor Jasper Newell. Younger Kevin is written
with more depth and nuance than his teenage counterpart.
A psychological minefield
with no easy resolution, We Need To Talk About Kevin will haunt you for days to come.