Monday, February 13, 2012
We Need to Talk About Kevin More Often
Posted by Courtney Small
Films like We Need to Talk About Kevin serve as great reminder that, even in a cinema rich city such as Toronto, sometimes you have wait in line like everyone else. Although the film screened at TIFF, and has opened in theatres in the United States and other parts of the world, Lynne Ramsay’s latest film took an unusually long time to be released in theatres here. After seeing the film make numerous top ten lists, it was excruciating to have to wait to see what all the fuss was about. Fortunately, We Need to Talk About Kevin is not only deserving of the rave reviews, but easily surpassed the high expectations I had for the film.
Based on the novel by Lionel Shriver’s, We Need to Talk About Kevin revolves around Eva (Tilda Swinton), a mother who tries her best to connect with her son, Kevin (Ezra Miller), but hits road blocks at every corner. After Kevin goes on a killing spree at his school, Eva tries to put her life back together while facing the daily ire of her local community. This forces Eva to look back on her family’s past and question where she and her husband, Franklin (John C. Reilly), went wrong raising Kevin. Did she fail as a parent? Or was Kevin just evil from birth?
Although the theme of teen violence is prevalent in We Need to Talk About Kevin, it is a mistake to look at the film as a commentary on school shootings. It is really a film that focuses on the relationship between a boy and his mother. We Need to Talk About Kevin is more of film that aims to show the horrors that come with being a parent. This film often plays like a sequel to Rosemary’s Baby. If you ever wondered what it would have been like for Rosemary to raise the spawn of the devil, look no further than this film.
By setting her horror film within the realm of modern day occurrences, such as school shootings, Lynne Ramsay is not only able to bring a bit more realism to her film, but also make it far more chilling. What heightens the terror is the fact that Eva has it rough throughout the entire film. This is emphasized nicely by the way the film constantly bounces around time drifting back and forth from the present to the past. From a young age we see that Kevin has figured out how to use manipulation to his advantage. The loving way he reacts to Franklin is a stark contrast to how he interacts with Eva. Ramsay constantly reinforces the notion that Eva is fighting an uphill battle in a war of good and evil.
The interesting thing about this war is that Ramsay raises questions about whether or not there is even “good” in the equation. Though not quite hitting the mark in this regards, Ramsay does try to show that Eva is by no means a saint. She does several questionable things that most would not associate with good parenting. Unfortunately, these moments come off as a result of a mother reaching her breaking point instead of someone who is not a good parent. This is especially true in comparison to all the evil things that Kevin does throughout the film. For her part though, Tilda Swinton does a wonderful job conveying the pain and frustration within Eva. Swinton gives the best performance of her career, which is saying a lot considering her strong body of work. Swinton really accentuates Ramsay’s excellent direction nicely.
Lynne Ramsay is most well-known for her superb film Morvern Callar, but she really outdoes herself with We Need to Talk About Kevin. From the opening sequences at a tomato throwing festival up to the final moments with Eva and Kevin, the film is stunningly engaging. The theme of blood flows throughout the film as the colour red is frequently featured. This not only signifies the violence that Kevin commits in the film, but also the blood ties that Eva and Kevin will always have. As a stylize horror film, We Need to Talk About Kevin does an outstanding job of making you think twice before becoming a parent.