We Need to Talk About Kevin
Now Showing at: Esquire Theatre
Review by: Larry Thomas
Some films are like watching a train wreck… you keep looking at the carnage but are unable to avert your eyes. Unfortunately, a lot of real life is falling into the “train wreck” category these days. In the film We Need To Talk About Kevin, everything collides in a tale that puts the DYS in dysfunction. The great Tilda Swinton is very tentative about being a mother, but her son, Kevin, seems to have complete emotional disconnect from anyone or anything.
Based on a novel that attained a measure of popularity, We Need To Talk About Kevin teases you along the way with images and suggestions about what Kevin is capable of doing. And right away, the implication is that it’s not in the least pleasant. Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay has fashioned this hard-edged tale of guilt and grief into her magnum opus with a terrific cast. The aforementioned Tilda Swinton was robbed of an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of a mother whose life is a living nightmare. Swinton, who won a supporting Oscar for Michael Clayton, and who was so good in Deep End, is one of the finest actresses working today. She can handle both intense indie flicks like this, as well as mega-epics such as the Narnia series, and do justice to all. She’s married to John C. Reilly, no slouch in the character-acting department either. And then there’s Kevin, played at different stages of his life by three young actors, spanning the years from manipulative brat to teenage sociopath. The elder incarnation is handled quite well by Ezra Miller, and is one of the most chilling portrayals of movie evil in many years.
But unlike, say, Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, Kevin and his family are people that qualify as “ripped from the headlines.” Our daily news constantly bombards us with stories as ghastly as Kevin’s. We wonder who or what’s to blame…a mother, a father, both, a bad gene pool, environment, whatever. Regardless of where the fault lies in situations like this, it’s hard to accept what is going on in society on a day-to-day basis.
And despite the quality craftsmanship in this film, it’s equally hard to sit through. Ramsay’s direction is masterful. Swinton and Miller are mesmerizing on screen, even though they are people you would most likely make every effort to avoid. Reilly, while maybe not the best choice for the role of the father, is still fine in support.
If you can detach yourself from the events in We Need To Talk About Kevin, and explore it as a composite work of cinema, there’s much to admire. However, if you invest your emotions, then you’ll find yourself watching the inevitable train wreck. And that, I’m guessing, was Ramsay’s intention all along.
The R-rated We Need To Talk About Kevin is now showing at the Esquire Theatre.