Best Films of 2011: We Need To Talk About Kevin
A Review by Lynnessa Parks
A Review by Lynnessa Parks
Director Lynne Ramsey brings to the big screen an interesting and chilling adaptation of Lionel Striver’s best selling novel of the same title. The film is centered on a seemingly perfect family dwelling in suburbia, characterized by wealth and prestige. However just under the surface the family is not as generic as they seem, now this appears to be a typical movie storyline until you meet Kevin. He appears to be the typical problematic child, rebellious, brilliant and slightly psychotic. Told primarily from the mother’s point of view, she struggles to move on with her life after Kevin goes on a very well orchestrated massacre in his high school. Using a series of flashbacks, the film jumps from past to present chronicling the life of Eva after the murders and her memories of Kevin, as she tries to explain his behavior. It is obvious from the onset that he family relationships are strained especially between Eva (Swinton) and Kevin who is trouble from conception.
In her third feature film Ramsay is quickly identifying herself as a prominent female director, delving deeply into the human psyche, analyzing human relationships with each other and the wider society. She straddles a line between experimental filmmaking and traditional narrative at various points in the film; a notable sequence is the condensed meeting of her husband Franklin (Reilly) and conception of Kevin. The red tones combined with a shaky camera and interesting lighting effects makes this a twisted dark love scene rather than the fairy tale perfection audiences have grown accustomed. The colour red continues throughout the movie in the form of lights, paint but never blood an interesting choice that keeps the film out of the horror or thriller genre. Yet Ramsey manages to capture feelings of fear, trepidation and foreboding usually associated with the Halloween film franchise or Hannibal. The lack of graphic displays of violence prevents the audience from truly identifying Kevin as a monster or encouraging emotions of hate and blame toward the mother. Ramsey does not feed into audience’s desire for blood and a clear and present danger, it would be easy forgive an emotionally wounded kid with an arrow whose home life was not ideal in fostering well adjusted individuals excited about life. However, a boy who by the end of the film is not clear about his reasons for murdering his schoolmates is even more disturbing and unforgiveable.
Swinton gives an amazing performance as Eva, a character as complex and unpredictable as Kevin. It is easy to blame the mother for her son’s actions yet the more the hiccups in her parenting style are highlighted the more you pity the character. You are appalled in the beginning, thinking what sane mother carries her young baby to a construction site simply to drown out his incessant wailing. Now as demonic as Kevin appears it is a far-fetched ideal that a baby consciously sets out to annoy his mother but when the father appears waking baby Kevin remains silent as the grave. Also at seven years old we see Kevin soiling his pants simply because he takes pleasure in demanding his mother change him and basking in her frustration.
The mother is the obvious person to blame in this instance; the community publicly ostracizes her as house and car is splattered with red paint, she is assaulted by grievous women on the street and sexually assaulted by a nefarious coworker. Through all this she continuously scrubs away the red paint on her home as she wishes she could wash away her guilt and shame. By the end of the film Ramsay never even hints the reason for Kevin’s behavior and also never condemns the mother who by the 2nd act is all but overwhelmed by a child who must have been swapped at birth with the spawn of Satan. If it were not for the uncanny resemblance between the mother and son I would question the child’s legitimacy as well. Swinton in the film has short dark hair and is very slender, Kevin mirrors his mother body physic to the point where you have to do a double take to make sure it’s Eva and not Kevin.
The uncanny resemblance made me question the child’s paternity, John C. Reilly is an amazing actor with a knack for choosing Oscar worthy films. However his role in this film was not his best to date, not only does he not look like his family but his mannerisms are not suited to the environment. His character is not developed and mostly ignored throughout the film, he is always drinking a beer, making snide comments and just not connecting with the setting or the story. I understand that his character is the absent father but he was more disjointed and blatantly different than just unconcerned, his presence was not always plausible.
Nothing seared my consciousness more than the stunning work from Ezra Miller, the actor playing teenage Kevin. His disturbing robotic performance will dissuade even the most confident and eager individuals from contemplating procreation. Miller’s dual personality changes depending on the parental unit present, even though it is hard to blame the mother for her son’s actions, you find yourself trying to understand his actions, which you are not to sure what they are exactly. Ramsay only hints to his nefarious conduct with a series of knowing looks directed toward his mother, he takes pleasure in jarring her, mentally dissecting her inner most thoughts and emotions. When his sister’s hamster goes missing and is killed by the garbage dispenser, Kevin is strategically positioned near the mother waiting to give her a knowing look. I am not to clear on how his younger sister lost her eye all we know is that Kevin was left alone with the child. Or a quick shot of Swinton walking in on him masturbating, Kevin looks at his mother with twisted joy and pleasure at being discovered in a very private moment. For all the director offers the audience, these moments could truly have been accidents or monstrous acts violence and insanity.
Ramsay cleverly gives the audience an obvious answer then spends the rest of the movie breaking down these assumptions. After viewing this film I concluded that we do not need to in fact talk about Kevin but the mother should consider a priest, prayer and holy water.
Crazy, Stupid Love