Movie Review: We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011, Dir. Lynne Ramsay)

We Need to Talk About Kevin is the new film by Irish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay based on the novel of the same name by Lionel Shriver. The story follows Eva, a mother whose son has committed a horrible atrocity, and how she is coping with her feelings of grief and guilt, and at the same time, put her life back together. Dual plot-lines of Eva’s past and present weave together into a truly frightening psychological thriller that’s also an intense emotional drama.

Ramsay has already established herself as a powerful filmmaker, and this new feature lives up to her earlier work. Akin to her earlier films, We Need To Talk About Kevin is more expressive than narrative. Pieced together like a broken memory, you know from the very beginning the horrors that Kevin is capable of, but as the story unravels you still find yourself dreading the finale.

Ramsay’s use of color is nothing short of superb. Despite the subject matter, the film is almost bloodless, but at the same time, there’s blood everywhere. Red paint stains the house and Swinton’s hands, a tomato festival floods an Italian street with a bright pool of red. Colors splatter all over the screen. It’s subliminal in a sense, but the visceral quality the red gives the film is undeniable.

And channeled through Ramsay’s gorgeous visual storytelling, there is some great acting. Tilda Swinton gives a harrowing, captivating performance as a mother tortured by the actions of her own child. The most fascinating aspect of the film is watching her deal with her guilt, and how she copes with the punishment she is receiving from neighbors, coworkers, and even strangers. You struggle with the debate of who is to blame as much as she does. It’s a horrible scenario; there are no easy answers.

I’ve become a big fan of Ezra Miller this year, after seeing him in Another Happy Day and in this film, as the title character, Kevin. Even at his young age, he’s got great screen presence, he’s extremely interesting to look at, and has proven himself to be a very daring actor. And he’s pretty.

What I personally like the most about We Need To Talk About Kevin is how it embraces genre filmmaking in an artistic and serious way. Although I’m sure many critics who disrespect the genre will deny it, We Need To Talk About Kevin is a horror film, albeit a horror of a more domestic nature. I wish there were more films like this. The best horror films deal with serious issues, but depict them in an exaggerated way, almost to the point of being absurdist, but in a fashion that causes them to become terrifying. Was Kevin really evil from birth, or have Eva’s memories spoiled, twisting into a deformed nightmare as a result of the tragedy? It’s dependent on whose perspective you accept as an audience, but it’s fascinating, and it’s scary.

We Need To Talk About Kevin is a risky film, but it’s unique, and it’s beautiful. I highly recommend it.

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