Director: Lynne Ramsay
Starring: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller, Jasper Newell
Duration: 112 min.
Explores the factious relationship between a mother, as she contends for 15 years with the increasing malevolence of her first-born child, Kevin.
We Need to Talk About Kevin is a film directed by Lynne Ramsay, adapted from a novel of the same name by Lionel Shriver. It premiered in competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
This is a visually stunning and emotionally haunting work of art, anchored by an outstanding performance by Tilda Swinton as Eva, a mother caught in an endless struggle to connect with her son Kevin. Ramsay sets the film's unsettling tone early with a gorgeous almost surreal sequence that takes place at the Tomatina Festival. The crowd of revelers which includes Eva, is shot from an overhead view, a crush of bodies coming together all drenched with the juice from thousands of blood red tomatoes. The screen is soon dominated with a shockingly deep hue that Dario Argento would be proud of, accompanied by the distant compressed sounds of a crowd that make it appear that this must be some sort of dream or flashback.
We eventually discover that the film's reality doesn't stray far from that opening. It's presented as a non linear set of fragments, memories, and moments from Eva's point of view, all gloriously framed and rendered, where that redness is repeatedly, and ominously present. Images from the past chronicling her tortured relationship with Kevin that is shown to be rocky from even before his moment of birth, to the present where she continues to exist and tries to come to terms with something terrible that he has done.
Everything you've heard people say about Tilda Swinton's magnificent performance is true. She embodies the confused and frustrated Eva in a way that is entirely relatable and heartbreaking even if you aren't a mother. The look of torment and despair that develops as she tries and tries unsuccessfully to get through to Kevin, is simply one of the most excruciating things that I've seen all year. It's been said a million times already, but what a shameful oversight it was for her to be snubbed by the Academy.
The three young actors who play Kevin at various ages (Rock Duer, Jasper Newell, and Ezra Miller) are also brilliantly cast. Sometimes when multiple actors are used to play the same character, there are incongruities that are obvious, not here. Each of them look enough alike, and most impressively, act so much alike that you never really notice that they are not the same, and wow are they ever some cold and chilling performances.
Ramsay has crafted something special here from what many would consider a worn out topic. We Need to Talk About Kevin is an aesthetically pleasing statement and a highly disturbing portrait that is at times very difficult to watch, not for it's violence or shock factor, as there is very little, but because of Swinton's powerhouse acting, and of the troubling questions it poses. Are monsters created, or can they be born that way, and is there anything that can be done? Do not miss this one.
— Bonjour Tristesse