We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)


It’s now been two hours since my screening of We Need To Talk About Kevin finished, and I’m still a little stunned. I’d like to write a full review, but I’m not sure I can get my head around it, so I’m simply going to list a few things.

Firstly, judging performances, Tilda Swinton as Eva has rarely been better. I’ve always said she could hold the same facial expression for hours and communicate a thousand ideas with it, and that is monumentally true here. It’s a brave, outstanding performance that is better than anything I’ve seen all year. Also, the movie is 90% hers to carry, and she does so astonishingly well.

John C Reilly is thankfully giving us a decent role following some of the dreck he’s appeared in over the past few years. I was frustrated and irritated with his portrayal of Franklin – in exactly the right way. Franklin is a man you want to smack and make pay attention, and Reilly wrings that from us brilliantly.

Critics seem to be divided on Ezra Miller as Kevin; some calling him pitch-perfect evil, others considering it laid on a bit too thick. I’ve possibly done myself a favour by reading these opinions, cos I was surprised to see a much more fleshed-out performance than expected, although perhaps a little too much of a locked-jaw and Kubrick glower about him. He brings a terrifying humour to Kevin, only it’s the kind of humour where no one gets the joke but Kevin – which is the worst thing of all.

Attention must also be paid to Jasper Newell who plays the younger Kevin – though a very definite case of lock-jaw Kubrick glower being a little overdone – he’s very good.

It should also be noted, and it’s the one spoiler I’ll provide (although the film’s superb editing makes it pretty clear, really), that much of the film is made of Eva’s recollections, which would go a long way to justifying and forgiving the slight over-doneness of Kevin.

My only real complaint with the film is a heavy-handed use of red as symbolism. It’s all well and good to have a motif, but the film made it far too obvious, which clashed with the rest of its subtlety, and something prominently red appears in every frame, often where it is distracting rather than effective.

I admired the book, and find the film to be the superior text of the two, although the book is very worth reading. If you’ve not read it, you’ll be better off for the film, as not knowing where it’s going will be an experience less built on impending dread but involved intrigue. Particularly well done, in my opinion, is the decision to provide no definite answers, as to the how and why did this happen, and the where did it go wrong. Eva’s role in Kevin’s life is under constant scrutiny through the film, but with no direction given as to what that role is, which makes it intriguing and thought-provoking cinema. Viewers (and readers) are able to draw their own conclusions from a highly sophisticated piece of work.

The film is a gripping and finely-crafted piece of cinema. Swinton deserves an Oscar, though it would be nice to award her with something more meaningful in the way of accolades.  It’s deeply troubling and quite disturbing, and at the end, as the credits flashed before me in silence, I felt like I should be crying but didn’t quite know how. Buzz-words used in reviews abound everywhere, but this is truly a film that deserves to be called “powerful.” It is richly nuanced, and brilliantly constructed, but you’ll need a drink or five afterwards, and I expect I’ll be staring at a lot of walls for a few days to come.

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