We Need to Talk About Kevin
We Need to Talk About Kevin is haunting and chilling thriller that was based on a book by Lionel Shriver that rehashes the classic debate of nature-versus-nurture in an uncompromising art-house style. It marks the third feature film Lynne Ramsay has directed. The film is an unsettling view of a mother who must deal with her troubled son and the trouble he causes. Through the use of many flashbacks, the non-linear narrative reveals piece by piece how something is not right about Kevin.
Eva Khatchadourian (Tilda Swinton) waits patiently in the lobby awaiting her job interview while nearly the entire office of workers seems to be silent and starring at her. Not because she is just an outsider of the company but because of who she is. When her name is called the air out of the building has been sucked out. The interviewer says to Eva, “I don’t really care who you are or what you have done so long as you can type and you can file you can have this job.” Eva is relieved and thanks her.
As she walks out of the building she interviewed in with a half-smile of relief an older lady walks up to her verbal assaults her and then punches her in the face. A man who witnesses the incident asks if he should call the police on the lady, Eva responses no and takes the blame herself. At this point in the film we are not sure what has happened exactly. But we know whatever it is it is obviously not good.
Kevin was ornery his entire life. As a baby he was almost always screaming, except when held by Franklin (John C. Reilly). He would not participate in rolling back a ball to his mother. Eva was concerned that perhaps something was wrong with her son so she brings him to a doctor. First she thought he may have damaged hearing but a doctor said he could hear just fine. Because he was not talking as other children his age have by now, she thought maybe he had autism. But the doctor insisted that there is nothing wrong with Kevin.
As Kevin grows older so does Eva’s frustration with Kevin. She cannot get him to do anything she wants him to do. She had to change his diapers well past the point that a child should wear them because he refused to cooperate. But Kevin has always been receptive of Franklin, even before he could remember as a baby, which has always bothered Eva. Franklin does not see what all the fuss is about with Kevin.
It appears that only Eva notices the dangers of the problem child while everyone else around her thinks he is just a typical teenage boy. Something about the satisfaction he gets when doing something wrong is disturbing to her. I will not reveal what ends up happening, not that it would completely ruin the film but because the film does such a good job showing you bits and pieces of what happens.
Eva believes she deserves the blame for what Kevin has done. Her punishment is not moving away and dealing with people that treat her like dirt. At one point in the film she buys broken eggs and does not ask for a refund in order to not being seen in the grocery store, then eats an omelet filled with broken shells. She even believes that she will go to hell for all eternity.
The use of the color red is liberally used throughout the entire film to symbolize blood and danger. Everything from vibrant close-ups of an alarm clock, curtains in their home, ketchup on a plate of eggs, Kevin’s toys, aisle of tomato soup cans, red is found in almost every scene. You do not even have to be paying close attention, it is so wonderfully overwhelming that you cannot miss it.
You know an actor has done their job when you cannot imagine anyone else playing their role. Tilda Swinton went beyond that, it was if the role was written for her. She says so much with her body language and expressions alone, her best scenes require no speaking on her part.
We Need to Talk About Kevin is like a train wreck, you do not necessarily enjoy what you are watching but yet it is so compelling that you cannot turn away. It is wonderfully shot with symbolism in abundance, a score by Jonny Greenwood that is as eerie as the film itself and stellar acting performances. As the title suggests, once the film is over you will need to talk about Kevin.