Movie Review - We Need to Talk About Kevin

Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay directs. British, Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton stars and produces. BBC Films and the UK Film Council provide the funding. Yet, it's about an American school shooting. It's based on the novel by Lionel Shriver, a female author who actualy didn't like Ramsay's first adaptation attempt. I'm not sure I like the one she made instead. The reason is because I'm not sure what Ramsay is trying to say with this piece. I assume that it's something about motherhood, but what that is exactly is not outright clear.

Tilda Swinton plays Eva Khatchadourian. The film opens with Eva at La Tomatina, the tomato festival, and it's just an explosion of the color red, a color that becomes reoccurring in not so subtle ways. Because the movie isn't told in chronological order, I wasn't sure when in this woman's life the tomato festival takes place, so I couldn't determine the significance of it. I certainly couldn't say what it meant or if it was important in the slightest. Visually, it looked interesting. It was one big food fight, a veritable tomato bath.

It is one thing that Ramsay gets right. Her visuals are interesting. They're very interesting actually. Every shot is beautifully crafted or strikingly artistic in same fashion. Her use of sound is clever too, not necessarily with dialogue but certainly with sound. Despite the word being in the title, ironically this movie doesn't have a lot of talking. The first reel in fact has practically no dialogue. So much is conveyed without the dialogue that there can be no doubt that Ramsay is a great filmmaker or at least has the potential to be one. Yes, Ramsay conveys a lot but it's all disjointed. She creates this disturbing and creepy atmosphere, but, aside from the disturbing and creepy atmosphere, there isn't much to be taken away. What is Ramsay's point of all this?

Ramsay flashes us back and forth between Eva's present life, which is apparently a solitary one, and her past life, which included a husband, played by John C. Reilly, and two kids. In her present life, she seems like a pariah. Something is off or not right between her and her immediate neighbors. None of them like her. In her past life, she has problems with her firstborn child, her son named Kevin. Even as a baby, Kevin is a stubborn and difficult child, but only to his mother.

Later, about a hour into the movie, when Kevin becomes a teenager, 16 years-old, played by Ezra Miller, he is nasty, bitter and resentful constantly. Most, if not all, of that nastiness is aimed at his mother, Eva. The question is why. There is no cause or true explanation. It gets to a point where all we can deduce is that Kevin is a sociopath. If that's the case, then an interesting film could be had of a mother dealing with the fact that her son is a sociopath, but the movie builds to a moment. This moment is setup to be shocking and crazy. It's hinted and even somewhat prognosticated, but the moment needed explanation. We don't get one. In essence, Kevin needs explanation and we don't get one.

This movie, as I assume the book, is told from Eva's point of view only, so getting inside Kevin's head is something we're not allowed to do. There are two horrors though and while one horror gets some throwaway excuse, the other comes out of nowhere and makes no sense. There is no evidence of foreshadowing for it at all. It seems only done to get the movie to a certain plot point. It doesn't stand from a character arc stance.

All of this stems from the scenes in Eva's past life. Yet, problems arise in the scenes in Eva's present life too. The existence of these scenes at all are questionable. They serve no purpose, except to hint at the tragedy that occurred, but hints aren't needed. What's needed are scenes that are less artistic and more concrete. One example is a scene in Eva's present life where she's driving, presumably on Halloween night, and successively a slew of people stare directly at her. The first few people are forgivable but after the 100th person it gets to be too obvious.

It's a creepy scene, but it adds nothing of substance. If anything, it's a distraction from the real story. As I said, people don't like her in her present life. It's not every one, but why any one would is a bit baffling. Other people's reactions to her are weird. At least, they're varied, but not much care for it can be had.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for disturbing violence and behavior, some sexuality and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 52 mins.


  1. This film is so disturbing, chilling, and at times, very hard to watch but it’s terribly tense with a near-perfect performance from Swinton, who I usually don’t like but here she’s absolutely amazing and definitely deserved that Oscar nomination. Good review Marlon.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts