We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
Dir: Lynne Ramsay
My parents thought I was a handful!…
Based on the bestselling novel by Lionel Shriver, this film follows Eva (Tilda Swinton), a mother who seems to be having a hard time, her house is splashed with paint, and in disjointed pieces of her life we see her struggling to manage at times. As the film develops and we’re shown other times, a picture emerges of her relationship with son Kevin (Ezra Miller) as well as husband (John C. Reilly). It slowly emerges that Kevin is a difficult, possibly even troubled child, and as he enters adolescence his behaviour becomes increasingly worrying.
The film has a really non-linear narrative, it skips about in time with brief scenes at various points in Eva’s life, from Kevin’s conception to the week of his 18th birthday. At first this is very disorienting, but it quickly starts making sense as pieces of the timeline start falling into place. This confusion and working to follow the significance of events in the overall scheme of things nicely mirrors how his mother is feeling and struggling with getting to grips with the reality of the situation.
Ezra Miller who plays Kevin is really excellent, as is the boy who plays the younger Kevin who actually looks a lot like Miller which is very helpful. They have the hard task of showing either little emotion or sometimes strong emotions, especially towards Eva. Swinton is really superb too, as she also has to show a whole range of different skills in portraying a very conflicted mother, including stages of what might be postpartum depression, motherly love, confusion, anguish, and many other different feelings that must be conveyed as her character is really toyed with and put through situations that cover a wide range.
The question that is essentially being asked is the whole ‘nature or nurture’ debate, pondering what causes Kevin to become the person he turns into? Some criticism of the film was that it sways that in a particular way that the book didn’t. Though I’ve not read the book, I don’t really think it did. Firstly the author thought it was a great adaptation of her work, so she must have been satisfied that it didn’t ruin the premise or her leanings, and I didn’t think that there was anything in the film that particularly suggested a mother who has pushed her son into committing terrible acts, but rather quite the reverse, a son who has pushed his mother.
It’s a thoroughly engrossing story and vividly realised on screen, so possibly not for the faint hearted even though most violence and suchlike is kept off the screen, the way that you’re pulled into the fascinating predicaments of these characters thanks to the stellar acting, makes it really quite emotionally charged.