We Need to Talk about Kevin – review

Eva (Tilda Swinton) is forced to re-build her life, after her teenage son Kevin (Ezra Miller) goes on a high-school killing spree. It is a nightmarish situation that nobody wants to have to deal with. Considering the recent events which transpired in Norway and America’s unsavoury history of school shootings, this film could have caused a lot of controversy (I’m sure the right-wing conservatives will still kick up a fuss). However, Lynne Ramsay tackles this issue very carefully and doesn’t sensationalise at all, nor does she seek to provoke.

The film looks in retrospection at the relationship between Eva and Kevin from birth to teenage years, this is juxtaposed with scenes of the present where we can observe the effects of the event on Eva’s life. So, chronologically the film is very messy, and that would normally get under my skin, but it adds to the atmosphere greatly. The jumping about only adds to the context of the film, the beginning of the film starts with Eva crowd-surfing with her arms out in Christ-like formation at La Tomatina (tomato throwing festival). To me, this suggests she is a free-spirit who likes to travel, so when she becomes pregnant with her first child, I was curious to see how this will affect her lifestyle and her pyshce. One example of how little nuggets of information are given out which contextualise future actions.

What I love most about this film is it’s ambiguity in the way it never tells you why Kevin acted out. It shows you different parts of his childhood which may have been influential, but never points the finger. This approach actually makes it all the more disturbing because as humans we like to attribute blame. Without a conclusive answer, the film stays with you long after the credits have tumbled down the screen. Also, the distinctive mise-en-scene (I can use terms like this now I do a film studies course, thanks Cornerhouse!) with particular use of the colour red will burn an imprint on your retina so you never forget what you witnessed. I certainly will not forget.

A difficult film to watch, but unlike Melancholia I recommend you go and see it. However, a warning goes out to all the mothers of the world; this is potentially a psychologically scarring film. This might sound extreme, but I’m thinking of my own mother when I say this. Now I’ve got that disclaimer out of the way, I can conclude. Striking shots, a really engaging narrative, and sensational acting make this one of the best films of the year. Bravo Lynne Ramsay! A total of nine years since her last feature film, a lot of effort obviously went into this project. It shows.


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