Film Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin

By Harriet Thacker

There is nothing wrong with Kevin. His mother, Eva (Tilda Swinton) is told by his doctors and his father Franklin (John C. Reilly) time and time again that he is fine. Kevin’s increasingly violent actions and unnerving behaviour prove otherwise.

This film, based on Lionel Shriver’s 2003 novel We Need to Talk About Kevin, explores the tempestuous relationship between mother and son that culminates in an horrific act of violence.

Lynne Ramsey directs an exquisite thriller that questions the origins of evil in a classic nature-nurture debate. Tilda Swinton is, as expected, magnificent, encapsulating the despair and isolation of Eva both before and after the event. Alongside her is Ezra Miller who gives an outstanding performance as Kevin, a teenager who seems to have an absolute, cold-hearted confidence in himself and his actions. Special nods to Rock Duer and Jasper Newell, who play the toddler and young Kevin, and succeed in portraying Kevin’s early sociopathic tendencies at such tender ages.

The film is constructed expertly to build the tension and unease. Throughout the film Ramsay pieces together imagery and sound to lead up to the final terrible event. She uses our senses to make us focus on the details, the tearing of fingernails, the harsh cracking egg shells, the soft squelching of lychees, positioned perfectly to maintain relevance and allude to what isn’t seen. She uses a jagged narrative, switching between past and present to wrong-foot the audience and keep us wondering why Kevin behaves the way he does. Her lingering shots on characters give you time to contemplate what is or has happened, making the audience, like Eva, continually question the normality of Kevin.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a must see on all levels. The story is engaging, thought provoking and devastating. Ramsay’s microscopic examination of image and sound is an art form in itself. It is emotionally thrilling and draining. The film stays with you, long after you leave the auditorium, demanding consideration.

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