Movie Review: You need to see ‘Kevin’

By WIll Ashton |
We Need to Talk About Kevin | Directed by Lynne Ramsay | Rated R

Expecting parents may want to think twice about seeing We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Not that it’s a bad movie — far from it. It might just kill any sense of joy they have that all children are innocent and loving.

Even as an infant, Eva’s (Tilda Swinton) son Kevin appears disturbed. Whenever he’s around his mother, he’ll scream nonstop. Whenever he’s around his father, Franklin, (John C. Reilly), however, all seems fine. As a toddler, Kevin doesn’t speak to or address his mother in any way. Franklin thinks nothing of it. At 6, he remains in diapers and grows more defiant of his mother’s authority yet remains calm and sweet to his father and others around him. They don’t see it, but Eva knows something is very wrong with her son.

The whole film is built on unease, tension, and dread, so it would be a sin to delve into the plot anymore. It’s one of those movies where it crawls under your skin in a matter of seconds and won’t let you go until you leave the theater — if you’re lucky.

As always, Swinton gives a powerhouse performance as Eva. Her ability to capture so much conflict and emotion on her face without saying anything is awe-striking and gives so much weight to the character. A character study, her performance not only heightens the film, it makes it whole; it brings the gravity of the situations to perspective without having to speak directly of them.

Because the story is told in a non-linear expression, this dynamic helps bring everything to focus and keeps the audience aware of what she is going through at all times. Its lack of clear structure will often grow frustrating to the audience, and also appears to leave gaps in the story. Since this was a book originally (of the same title by Lionel Shriver), it appears as though a couple things here and there were lost in the shuffle, leading to plot holes and unanswered questions.

Some of these, however, could arguably be considered up to the audience’s interpretation.  Although it seems to have an agenda of sorts, the film also appears to remain open to each character. This allows us to have a great understanding of the bigger picture and know the scope of the situations that are foreshadowed throughout.

Horror films are usually considered movies like Paranormal Activity and Halloween. But in a psychological sense, this is very much a horror flick. Rarely are there moments where the audience is able to remain calm and collected. Through editing, sound effects, some camera tricks and a score by the impeccable Jonny Greenwood, the audience is brought into a sense of dread from the beginning; it’s as though we are watching a train crash slowly coming, yet cannot do anything to stop it. It’s not going to be for everyone, but it’s unnerving nature will likely even live to those who cannot enjoy it.

Ezra Miller plays a teenage Kevin. Only indie audiences may be familiar with his work in such films as Afterschool and City Island (both of which I very much recommend watching). But in here, he proves himself a young actor to watch for. Even through a blank look in his eyes, he is able to capture a sense of terror.  He is a true horror villain.  Also, having seen work on set of his new film The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I can tell you that he is going to continue to show promise in future films.

It’ll leave a lot of people with mixed emotions, and that’s partially the point. But We Need to Talk About Kevin is a jarring piece of cinema that actually lives up to the phrase “grabbing you and not letting go.” Disturbing, haunting and ultimately daring, it’s the type of film that you can only really watch once, but that one view is very much worthy viewing.



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