We Need To Talk About Kevin
WILL STINSON checks out the chilling new child-massacre thriller starring Tilda Swinton.
Directed by Lynne Ramsay
Before we begin, a word of warning: even if you have read the book, you will be deeply affected by We Need to Talk about Kevin. The film adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s smash-hit novel is like watching a car crash in slow motion. Now, I don’t mean this derogatively; We Need to Talk about Kevin is appallingly magnificent. But this film contains no happiness, no light at the end of the tunnel, just the worst that reality has to offer.
We Need to Talk about Kevin explores the fractious relationship between Eva and her son Kevin. From the outset of the film, it is evident that there is no emotive bond that ties mother and son together; a horrendous taboo in an era of nuclear families and dysfunctional marriages, the maternal tie is something that has thus far gone largely unquestioned. Shriver shredded this preconception in the novel, and Lynne Ramsay beautifully visualises the frantically calm tension of a family that is clinging together by its finger nails.
Mummy’s little monster: Tilda Swinton is the unfortunate parent of a murderer
Tilda Swinton, in a tour de force performance, plays Eva, the discontent mother of Kevin, a closet psychopath. With a genre that can only be described as domesticated horror, We Need to Talk about Kevin is a no holds barred commentary on the long-asked question of nature or nurture: is a person innately evil, or do they act in an evil way due to a disinterested upbringing?
Exploring the life of her son after she has lost her family and job, Eva drinks to drown her grief. What she is in mourning for is revealed little by little, but she blames herself for what she has lost. As Eva reflects on her life with Kevin, she sees that her only relationship with her son is one of conflict and resentment. The only time that Eva and Kevin show affection towards each other is when Kevin is ill for a few days around the age of six or seven. That’s less than a week of maternal care in 15 years of his life. I found this scene the most horrendous.
The imagination is left to create the unseen horror that is bleakly implied; a high school shooting that is never seen, bleach poured in a young girls’ eye, a guinea pig ground to death in drain. These acts are never shown, and yet the audience is carefully dragged through Kevin’s bitter acts of twisted violence. Ramsay carefully places the colour red, whether it be the ever-prominent glass of red wine that Eva perpetually clutches, or her daughter’s letterbox red cuddly toy, as indicators of the finale; the worst kind of red, the blood of children.
Lynne Ramsay is a director who likes her structure; this exacerbates the uncomfortable tension that writhes and claws its’ way through every scene. Sticking mainly to facial close ups, it is what is absent from this film that makes it profoundly emotive. However, it is the fact that not one character is fully likeable that makes this film so enthralling. Everyone gets it a little bit wrong; the family (minus Kevin) is reminiscent of the dysfunctional relationships prevalent in every family today.
Without wanting to reveal too much for those who have not read the book, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a masterpiece. Tilda Swinton acts every twitch, syllable and step as if it were her last; a sure Oscar-winning performance. The post-production team made the most unthinkable atrocities disgustingly gorgeous, with marvellous editing to create a fluent piece of art.
We Need to Talk About Kevin is serenely devastating.