Following the hype around the release of the 2003 novel We Need to Talk About Kevin I wasn’t too sure about it. Not only am I a film snob (I am getting better), I’m also a literary snob. A quote draped across the front cover declaring it a brilliant novel by the Daily Mail put me off completely. Nevertheless, after vaguely hearing about its adaptation I thought I’d better give it a go. After all, it’s never the same reading the book after seeing the movie. Recently (following my slating review of One Day), I have tried to view the novel and film as separate entities; something I find especially difficult if I’m fond of one or the other. Kevin was my first adaptation post-One Day and rather than constantly looking for comparisons and criticisms, I managed to just let go and enjoy it.
Lynne Ramsey’s We Need To Talk About Kevin is a brilliant adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s book of the same name: set in present day America, it is similarly non-linear depicting the events leading up to the Kevin’s imprisonment. Eva Khatchadourian (Tilda Swinton), is mother to Kevin (Ezra Miller): a child with whom she has had difficulties with since birth. The film focuses on their strained mother-son relationship, together with the deteriorating relationship between Eva and Franklin (John C. Riley), Kevin’s father. Flashbacks eventually reveal how Kevin ended up in prison.
Like the novel, the film We Need To Talk About Kevin has stayed with me, hauntingly, some time after seeing it. Ramsey’s cinematography is brilliant, especially the scenes focusing solely on Eva: the opening scene where she’s frolicking in tomatoes at the tomatina festival; frozen in front of classic Campbell’s tomato soup cans and scrubbing scarlet paint from her house. Each of these scenes are draped with red, a hint of the forthcoming blood shed. The combination of memorable scenes like these, together with vivid symbolism throughout makes Kevin a complete work of genius. Swinton, in possibly the role of her career, is perfect as the strained mother pushed to her limit. The biggest conundrum, in both the novel and film, is this: is Eva a terrible mother because Kevin is a horrific child, or did Kevin turn out to be a psychopath due to Eva’s poor parenting? Capable of malicious acts from such a young age, I know which way I’m inclined to go.
We Need To Talk About Kevin, another gem shown at the Old Market Hall, is most easily one of the most affecting, poignant films I have seen in some time; largely down to the magnificent casting. Miller’s screen presence is enough to make Kevin one of the most ominous character’s of 2011, continuously wearing a half-smile that makes him uncanny, uncertain and unnerving instead of the usual charming teenager that we’re so used to donning our screens.