WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN - Now On DemandMay 23, 2012
On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (Oscilloscope Labs).
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
A mother’s love doesn’t always cut it…
By Cynthia Kane
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN instantly elicits haunting reminders of the premeditated high school massacre at Columbine now some thirteen years ago. I remember at the time wondering where the parents were in all this, and how could they live with themselves after the tragedy, the graphic murders and suicides. How does a parent go on? How do they look at themselves in the mirror knowing they gave life to a killer, a sick, psychotic mind? Does the tragedy in the end lie with themselves?
A few years later, I was listening to a BBC World Service radio program where they were discussing Lionel Shriver’s 2003 novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin after which I ran out to a bookstore, bought and read in one sitting. Disquieting and provocative, this novel searches into the mind and soul of one such mother trying to understand the reason as to why her 15 year-old son murders not only his classmates and teachers, but his overly loving father and younger sister in a single day. Thus I have been waiting many more years for this film to be made and when I heard Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay (RATCATCHER, MORVERN CALLAR) would adapt the screenplay from the novel, direct and Tilda Swinton would play the role of Eva, the mother, I knew it would not disappoint.
What’s uncommon and extraordinary here is Ramsay takes the novel and makes the film her own and a more suitable or honorable adaptation I cannot imagine. The book and the film live singularly on their own, but respect each other simultaneously. Ramsay’s reoccurring themes in her work: the inveterate, unresolvable themes of grief, guilt and, above all, death and its aftermath, belong here in this tale where a mother in the days, months, weeks, maybe even years after her child’s heinous crimes tries to make sense of it all.
It took Lynne Ramsay a long time to make this film. A great and complicated book is never easy to adapt. As seen by Eva’s point of view, it’s difficult to grasp her as a completely reliable narrator as she’s reflecting after-the-fact, trying to understand what happened, what might have changed things, was it her fault or is her son simply a psychotic psychopath for whom nothing could have been done to change the tragic unfolding of events. We are along for the ride, inside of the head of a mother, a woman destroyed by her son’s actions, trying to make sense of it with her. It’s at once a thriller, a cautionary tale.
It rises to the level of classical tragedy.
Eva in fact it seems never wanted to be a mother. A successful travel writer, she’s happy in her New York City life with partner, Franklin (John C. Reilly). Really there’s no place for a child in her life. Then along comes Kevin… While all Eva’s attention is focused in telling her tale on Kevin, all of our focus is on Eva.
Tilda Swinton wouldn’t have been whom I pictured, while reading the novel, to play Eva Khatchadourian, an American of Armenian descent, dark-haired - and who can imagine Tilda Swinton exasperated, pushed to the limit by anyone?! Yet there may be no actress that could have captured the essence of this character better, especially as we first meet her broken, destroyed and where slowly through the film we are able, through non-linear flashbacks and subtle expression, movement and emotion emanating from a woman who is finally clearly driven over the edge, put the pieces of the puzzle together that tell the story.
Kudos to the three young men who portray Kevin as a toddler, a child, a teenager – Rock Duer, Jaspar Newell and Ezra Miller (BEWARE THE GONZO, ANOTHER HAPPY DAY). Is Kevin a sadist who knows instinctively how to get under his mother’s skin? Has he planned it from birth, is he a demonic child, evil to the core, does he posses any love or redemption, or is this her interpretation after the fact? Does Kevin ever feel any remorse? Do Eva and Franklin ever talk about Kevin and the issues surrounding him? We will never really know.
Like Ramsay’s other work, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN is not heavy with dialogue or exposition. She looks to bold, unusual images – here the color red is thematically played with throughout, vivid details, an astute use of music and highly wrought sound design to create the unsettling world of Eva and her son.
The end of the film is a revelation. It grasps you, hurts you, may even uplift and will stay with you a longtime. It will make you wonder if this, in the end, is what unconditional mother’s love is all about.
- Cynthia Kane
Cynthia Kane reviews documentaries for On Demand Weekly. She is a writer and Sr Programming Manager for [ ITVS], overseeing the International Initiative for funding in their SF office. Prior she’s had many incarnations from actor to writer to producer. She co-created DOCday on Sundance Channel.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (Oscilloscope) can be found under your cable system's On Demand section.
Read Other Reviews By Cynthia Kane:
FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD - DEMAND IT
MARLEY - DEMAND IT
BLACK BUTTERFLIES - DEMAND IT
ALBAGTROSS - DEMAND IT
HOUSE OF PLEASURES - DEMAND IT
QUEEN TO PLAY - DEMAND IT
Tags:tilda swinton, oscilloscope labs, john c. reilly, we need to talk about kevin, bbc films, cannes 2011, rock duer, lionel shriver, rockinghorse films, piccadilly pictures, luc roeg, ashley gerasimovich, ratcatcher, jennifer fox, rory kinnear, lipsync productions, ezra miller, jaspar newell, lynne ramsay, morvern callar,