We Need To Talk About Kevin Review

By Saturday, December 31, 2011 6 , , , , Permalink 0
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ollowing 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.


  • Scott Lawlor
    January 5, 2012

    Oh no fair!! I really want to see this one, but I missed it so many times down here… Great write up.

    i am a little afraid of you now. Literary Snobs are not to be messed with

    • Amy
      January 6, 2012

      Thanks Scott! Really is brilliant. I watched the trailer again before putting the review up, and I just wanted to watch it again even though it is so haunting.

      Haha! Hopefully I’m not too scary. My snobbery only comes out when I’m not keeping an eye on it, I’m really conscious of it in case I offend anyone. Just don’t get me started on Dan Brown ;)

  • Nostra
    January 9, 2012

    Nice to read you liked it. It was a movie that really gets under your skin and doesn’t let go.

    • Amy
      January 12, 2012

      Thanks for the comment, Nostra. I’m still thinking about the performances even though I saw it a month ago now. Such brilliant performances, I can’t wait for this one to come out on blu ray!

  • Mark
    January 27, 2012

    I found the script’s suggestion that perhaps his mother’s ambition was partially responsible for the way he turned out, kind of fascinating. It’s an unfair assertion, but she clearly is apathetic in raising Kevin, rarely even bothering to discipline him. Though not for lack of trying, Kevin almost dares her to punish him when he takes the bread and slams it, jelly side down, on the coffee table. So many interpretations for his behavior. This film still haunts me.

    • Amy
      January 27, 2012

      Thank you very much for the comment, Mark! The novel is less suggestive of her poor parenting, making it more open to interpretation but I’m with you there. It’s been quite a while since I saw Kevin but it still haunts me also, just a mark of how brilliant it is.

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