Adapted from Lionel Shriver’s hit novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin focusses on Eva (Tilda Swinton) as she struggles with memories of her son from hell and deals with the aftermath of his violent actions. From birth, Kevin (Ezra Miller, Jasper Newell and more) favours his father (John C. Reilly) and treats his mother with extreme disdain. If you’ve ever wanted to see a toddler express pure contempt, this is your film.
In the film’s opening sequence the ratcheting sound of a garden sprinkler sets the tone for the film. Resembling the ticking of a clock gathering pace as the camera slowly moves towards an open patio with curtain billowing, it creates a sense of tension and embeds the idea of the film building towards a devastating climax. This simple shot had me unsettled from the very beginning and the film didn’t relent until the credits rolled and I could escape from its hold. We Need to Talk About Kevin is a powerful beast.
Poor Eva has a traumatic time throughout, unable to earn the love of her son and later, unable to escape the crimes he has committed. In the earlier scenes flashes of red are scattered throughout, be it a red kettle in the kitchen or a stripe along the wall. In the present day the red becomes overwhelming, from a wall of tomato soup or paint thrown over Eva’s house. Numerous times we watch Eva trying to wash the red stuff away, never able to get the blood spilled by her son off her hands. Lynne Ramsay’s use of colour may not be subtle but it is beyond effective. As a director Ramsay does not glorify the violence in the scenes, instead emphasising the emotional turmoil as expressed by her excellent cast.
We Need to Talk About Kevin is a fantastic film, brilliantly put together by Lynne Ramsay and with perfect performances from Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller. Be warned though, it will either put you off having children or if it’s too late, prevent you from teaching them archery or buying them a guinea pig.
We Need to Talk About Kevin screens again today at 14:45 in the London Film Festival and is in UK cinemas this Friday 21st October 2011.