We Need to Talk About Kevin
Directed by: Lynne Ramsey Cast: Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, John C. Reilly Running Time: 1 hr 52 mins Rating: R Release Date: January 27, 2012 (Chicago)
PLOT: A mother (Swinton) must deal with her extremely difficult son Kevin (Miller). To make it worse, she's the only one who sees him as difficult.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Fans of Swinton will find more reason to praise her with this movie. Anyone concerned that this will just be another dramatic movie about a school tragedy aftermath will be proven extremely wrong. If you think you can handle such a topic’s discussion, this movie is basically a must-see.
We Need to Talk About Kevin deals with a tragedy, but it does not get into the weepier aspects of facing such an emotional burden. It instead goes much deeper into elements of inherent evil, with a title character that is almost over-the-top sinister. Kevin is not a fully realistic character, as he is a negative force in Eva’s world every day of his life. He takes “brat” to a whole new level – expecting him to pull some supernatural, Damien-like shenanigans is out of the question. But comparing him to the same evilness that the Omen-mascot has brewing inside of him is not.
As Kevin is sometimes accompanied by classic horror Theremins, we can sense that director Lynne Ramsey is trying to give us a true evil incarnate, which is the proper way to present someone who commits something as awful as Kevin has. We immediately imagine those human beings as simple, pure evil. Such evilness goes beyond full comprehension. With Ezra Miller’s sinister performance, Ramsey has us re-think the entire possibilities of evil in those around us.
Of course, Tilda Swinton is amazing in this movie, and without having to resort to shouting or exploding in a crying scene. Her character has already gone beyond those tiers, and Swinton can expertly manage this character as Eva deals with some dark feelings that some of us may never have to deal with in our entire life. Swinton works with some great silence, and she empowers scenes with just her blank face expressions (especially during the film’s “modern” scenes). Her turn as an emotional ghost is absolutely spooky.
Working with such difficult subject matter, Ramsey is able to make it stick in your head with her technical finesse, both with attention to color (red, in tomato soup, paint, etc) and some very beautiful editing. She weaves the past and present quite well, making both eras equally lively and impacting (something that The Social Network did remarkably as well).
Ramsey’s handling of this story comes with an odd tone, especially from her soundtrack. There are times when her song choices can perhaps be too ironic, and are reaching for a strange bullying perspective. For example, Ramsey plays The Beach Boys’ “In My Room” when Eva is rummaging through Kevin’s room, looking for anything that she should be concerned about.
It’s possible that Ramsey is trying to make it so that even the movie is against her, and mocking her. Ramsey even throws her name on some tomato soup in the grocery store – “Ms. Ramsey’s Tomato Soup.” Is she trying to be light with this subject? Is she finding it to be more disturbing by having positive and negative elements collide into each other? It’s a strange tone, but it works.
And concerning the factor of something being disturbing, Ramsey actually maintains a certain distance from the events that are at the center of We Need to Talk About Kevin. Her movie is rarely interested in the gory details, or of the complete emotional implosion that such a tragedy would inspire. For this - we can be thankful. We can get enough of those sad images and stories from actual news reports and unnecessary movies of the same subject (Gus van Sant's Elephant).
By confronting the evil that leads to the tragedy at the center instead of wallowing in the emotional aftermath, We Need to Talk About Kevin may be one of the most jarring movies about such a difficult topic. It will certainly be one of the most haunting movies you'll see this year.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10