We Need To Talk About Kevin

It's Rosemary's Baby meets Robin Hood meets Supernanny...

 

4 and a half stars

 

 

We Need To Talk About Kevin

 

Director: Lynne Ramsay

Starring: Tilda Swinton, John C Reilly, Ezra Miller

 

We Need to talk about Kevin - No bonding going on here!

Imagine The Omen, stripped of its pulpy Old Testament trimmings, and laid bare as the story of what parents do with a nightmare child. Lynne Ramsay's sparse and elliptical adaptation of Lionel Shriver's 2003 novel focuses on a lone parent's loveless relationship with her difficult, but super-bright son, the unspeakable crime he ends up perpetrating, and its grim aftermath for his broken, haunted mother.

 

Ramsay's script breaks up the narrative into titillating chunks. It begins with Eva (Tilda Swinton), applying for a blue collar clerical job and afterwards being slapped on the face on the street. "I'll call 911," says a helpful passer-by. "No," responds an embarrassed Eva, brushing away the attention. "I deserved it."

 

The film flits between Eva's life in the present, living in a low-rent shack that is regularly splattered with red paint, and her life before as a travel writer, living an affluent life with her husband, son and eventual daughter. The film gives us keyhole peeks at what happened in between. She visits her son Kevin for a series of awkward, silent encounters in prison, which Ramsay intercuts with Kevin's birth, and a blank, disconnected Eva sitting in the hospital while her husband, Franklin (John C Reilly), does the cooing thing.

 

We Need to talk about Kevin - no communication between mother and son

We see scenes of Eva sometimes trying to - and sometimes not - find a connection with her infant son. But even at toddler age, he refuses to engage, instead locking himself into a battle of wills with his mother. Whether this is due to of an absence of any bonding period between the two of them immediately after birth is left unexamined.

 

In fact, Ramsay shies from choosing a side on the nature versus nurture question that the film inevitably throws up. So, the real monster of the piece is either Eva or Kevin, depending on your point of view. Kevin is either a sociopath by having been starved of maternal love, or he's one by accident of nature.

 

Ever manipulative, Kevin shows a different face to his father, who clearly dotes on the smiley, cheesily effusive son he's presented with. But Franklin is a sometimes too peripheral character in the film version. He sees his wife berating their infant son for stopping her career dead, yet we don't see enough of them together to understand why these two emotional opposites could stay a couple for so long, or how he could remain so blithely oblivious to there being a such problem with their child.

 

We Need to talk about Kevin - Mother and Father sit in stunned silence

Despite the narrative trims, Ramsay's film is a deftly constructed piece. Her screenplay, co-written with her partner Rory (not the actor) Kinnear, is lean and precise and light on dialogue, as if to wriggle itself free from the curse of the literary adaptation.

 

The visuals are bleakly beautiful, as are the performances. Swinton is fantastically controlled as Eva, with as much concealed as expressed, and Ezra Miller radiates cold brilliance and self-satisfaction as the sociopathic Kevin. Some may feel uneasy at its queasiness to choose a side - to truly demonise either Eva or Kevin. But its ambiguity is its strength. It'll get under your skin for sure, and afterwards you'll definitely need to talk about it.

 

Steve O'Brien

 

 

See its rather overdramatic and thus unindictative trailer by clicking on this box below:

 

 

We Need To Talk About Kevin
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CLONE WARS

'Jenny Agutter or David Dixon?

Dear Fan Can,

Imagine my surprise when, upon watching the TV version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I noticed that Jenny Agutter was playing Ford Prefect!

I checked and it turned out it was an actor called David Dixon instead. Are you sure they aren't the same person?

I have time on my hands, but I am not mad.

Yours,

Edna Wellthorpe (Mrs)

 

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