If your teenage son or daughter commits a heinous crime, how much guilt should you feel about that event? We Need To Talk about Kevin explores this question by focusing on the troubled relationship between a mother and son, played superbly by Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller. It’s a grim film to watch, but an unforgettable one.
In flashbacks, we learn that Eva Katchadourian (Swinton) has been deeply concerned about her son’s behavior almost from the day of his birth. Kevin cries continuously as a baby, and she feels ill-equipped to handle this situation. During the toddler stage, he won't even toss a ball back to her. As Kevin grows older, his interactions become more and more disrespectful in word and deed. Kevin's father (John C. Reilly) has a better relationship with their son, so he fails to take Eva's concerns seriously. And their darling daughter (Ashley Gerasimovich) seems to adore her older brother.
Eva is beside herself when it comes to dealing with the teenage Kevin (Miller), who finally goes on a killing binge. Could she have prevented this tragedy? What should she have done differently as a mother?
Because of Swinton’s marvelous acting, we believe every emotion she displays as her character experiences grief, guilt, loneliness and despair. Swinton (Young Adam) always delivers the goods, but she breaks our hearts in this award-worthy performance. In fact, she’s already won a number of Best Actress awards from various groups and will surely receive an Oscar nomination -- or there’s no justice in the showbiz world.
Miller (City Island) offers a chilling turn as teenage Kevin. Even when he smiles, it appears frightening. If he acts normal, it still comes across as suspicious. This is a young actor to keep your eye on. Jasper Newell and Rock Duer are also excellent in flashbacks showing Kevin at younger ages. Kudos to casting by Billy Hopkins!
Speaking of kudos, director/cowriter Lynne Ramsay (Morvern Callar), cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (Atonement), art director Charles Kulsziski (Shame), production designer Judy Becker (The Fighter), and editor Joe Bini (Rescue Dawn) deserve some too. Ramsay made sure everything fits together as realistically as possible, but with special touches added by the artists mentioned -- as well as by other crew members. The film's intriguing camera work and symbolism are especially noteworthy.
Also, although I’m no fan of movie flashbacks, the ones in We Need To Talk about Kevin worked for me, primarily because of the way they enlightened rather than confused me. Finally, I’d like to point out that in spite of the violent nature of this movie (based on Lionel Shriver’s novel), most violence occurs off camera with the horror of the event emphasized in its impact on survivors.
We Need To Talk about Kevin serves as a dramatic reminder concerning how important it is for parents to receive help with troubled children -- the earlier the better. Really listening to the mother or father talk about the problem is the first step.
(Released by Oscilloscope Pictures and rated “R” for disturbing violence and behavior, some sexuality and language.)
For more information about his film, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.