Movie Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

April 15, 2012 in Movie Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

I saw this movie several weeks ago but I can’t seem to get it out of my head. It just had that kind of an effect on me.

Based on Lionel Shriver’s acclaimed 2003 novel (which I have not read), We Need to Talk About Kevin follows a grieving mother (Tilda Swinton) as she tries to come to terms with a horrific atrocity committed by her teenage son, Kevin (Ezra Miller).

I had some idea about the premise but I had no idea how or why things turned out the way they did, which still enabled the film to be very effective as the story is interspersed with various chronological flashbacks, from Kevin’s conception until “present day”. We see Swinton’s character, Eva, at the start of it all, a young, carefree woman full of hopes and desires, and we see the way she is now, barely a shell of a person — and these flashbacks slowly peel away the layers until the two versions of her merge into one.

It’s not often that a film makes me feel physically compelled to keep watching or makes me feel emotionally drained by the end of it , but We Need to Talk About Kevin manages to do both. It’s an old cliche, but the film truly is a parent’s worst nightmare. As a new parent myself, watching Eva struggle to bond with Kevin — who might as well be called Damien — is gut wrenching and terrifying. In fact, although the movie would be traditionally categorised as a drama, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to call it a horror.

This is a film that raises a lot of questions about the role of a parent in bringing up a child, as well as the nature vs nurture debate. Was Kevin born evil or did she make him that way despite her best efforts? What can you do when a child simply refuses to listen and is intent on making your life hell? And what can you do when your partner has no idea what is going on?

With all due respect to Meryl Streep’s Oscar win for her portrayal of The Iron Lady (which I intend to review shortly), Tilda Swinton should have claimed the statuette for the performance of her career. She was simply heartbreaking as Eva, and I could feel her anguish, pain and despair as though her emotions were my own. Her ability to convey Eva’s conflicting feelings towards Kevin was simply incredible and I have a hard time coming up with another actress who could have taken the character to the same level.

Ezra Miller also did very well as the chilling titular character (though perhaps a little overdone at times), as did John C Miller in a surprisingly good performance as the oblivious husband Franklin, but this was without a doubt Swinton’s movie. It’s one of those rare films that captivated me from start to finish and had me sitting in silence through the credits, shattered by what I had just seen.

I don’t have much more to say about We Need to Talk About Kevin except that I highly recommend it. For me, it was undoubtedly one of the best movies of 2011, and when all is said and done, probably the year’s most memorable.

5 stars out of 5