We Need To Talk About Kevin

Film, Drama
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We Need To Talk About Kevin
British filmmaker Lynne Ramsay’s third feature after ‘Ratcatcher’ (1999) and ‘Morvern Callar’ (2002) is an adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s best-selling book of the same name, but there’s nothing remotely literary about Ramsay’s long-awaited comeback. She ditches the novel’s structure of an American wife, Eva (Tilda Swinton), writing letters to her husband, Franklin (John C Reilly), in the wake of their son committing a terrible crime, but keeps the book’s darting back and forth in time as we come to understand more of the woman, marriage and family that bore a killer.

Words firmly take a back seat in favour of the haunting power of image and sound as Ramsay turns Shriver’s novel into mesmerising and provocative cinema. ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’ is intense, first-person storytelling as Ramsay and Swinton draw us into the head and world of Eva, just as Ramsay did with Samantha Morton in ‘Morvern Callar’. Yet there’s also a cutting portrait of a family at its heart that makes home life feel like civil war as Ramsay runs with Shriver’s bold ideas about the alienation of parenthood and its devastating effect on love and marriage. Only in its latter stages does the film settle down – a little – into longer scenes and the need to resolve what happened to Kevin. He’s played by a staggeringly creepy Ezra Miller, who inherits the same know-it-all, spooky demeanour of a younger actor, Jasper Newell, earlier in the movie.

The film is at its best in its first hour or so, when it is most daring. The opening sees Eva’s sleeping dream of being carried aloft at a Spanish tomato festival morph into a waking nightmare of her modest house being attacked with red paint. Tomatoes become paint until soon, via ketchup, there are hints of sirens and blood. Sound design is as rigorously and creatively employed: a prisoner’s scream turns into a baby’s cry turns into the wail of a drill.

The film is full of such clever, teasing juxtapositions as thematic links are made between past and present. A distant Christmas for Eva spent in the bosom of her family dissolves to Christmas present and her solitary life as a teen prisoner’s mother and public outcast. We’re never sure whether what we see is the reality of events or Eva’s memory of them. Context is limited and Ramsay’s take on this story is far removed from social commentary or explanation. This is a portrait of a family, channelled through the memories and feelings of the mother herself.

Ramsay challenges even Pedro Almodóvar for an evocative use of red and the look of her film, as shot by Seamus McGarvey, is fragmented, often blurry, close-up, full of detail, preferring to show Eva’s nervous feet as she exits a courthouse  – Swinton is a physically awkward presence throughout – rather than her face. If some of the family scenes feel like a domestic war movie, with subtle talk of competitions and victories (‘Well, you won,’ says Eva to Kevin on the mini-golf course), others feel like a horror movie: a scene in which Eva drives through her area at Halloween is chilling.

‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’ is thought-provoking, confident and fearless. It’s experimental but never alienating and horrific in all the right ways. It’s great to have Ramsay back behind the camera after too long an absence. Bring on the next one.

By: Dave Calhoun

Posted:

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday October 21 2011
Duration: 110 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Lynne Ramsay
Screenwriter: Lynne Ramsay
Cast: Tilda Swinton
John C Reilly
Ezra Miller
Siobhan Fallon

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:41
  • 4 star:14
  • 3 star:5
  • 2 star:12
  • 1 star:9
LiveReviews|81
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Tastemaker

Highly traumatising. This film deals with a side of US school mass shootings that no one ever wonders about: how do the killers' parents go on after their kid have destroyed multiple families and lives. It's also greatly about the relationship between a mom (Tilda Swinton) and her psychopathic soon, beautiful portrayed by super-talented Ezra Miller. It was very touching and disturbing. It's all really well directed and acted.

Tastemaker

Having been utterly enthralled by the book, I wasn't sure what to expect from the movie and wondered whether it would do the story justice. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it almost lived up to expectations.

I can understand why it would not be to everyone's taste. This is a disturbing, sickening and heart wrenching thriller, based on an almost taboo subject matter. However, it is so thought provoking and different that it is definitely worth a watch. The only thing I would say is make sure you read the book first as the ending is far more of a surprise and the writing is simply stunning.


Amazing! Off to get the book!.loved it! Omg! That was awesome!! Dark & griping! Lost reaction! One of the best movie ever!! .


What a fabulous thought provoking film. The subject material is quite different to many of the happy USA family films we so often see. The actors well cast and really acted well especialyy the kevins and Eva. An excellent book. Likewise an excellent film


Disturbing. Brilliant cinematography. Psychologically well devleloped and thoughtfully considered. Excellent acting. The role of nurture is explored with subtlety and legitimacy. The role of nature, though, is ignored, but not dismissed. We're left to wonder what role it plays, and whether the much younger daughter who is so very different from Kevin is the product of a much improved and more mature nurture, a simple lack of colic for the mother to respond to and serve as a foundation for the parent child dynamic thereafter, or is it all the result of a different roll of the genetic dice. A must see movie.


Deeply disturbing. This movie will haunt me for a while. Certain scenes are just too painful to watch and play over and over in your mind. I think it's an amazing movie which has been directed by a genius. At the end it of it all, you can't even hate the boy for his unspeakable crime, you sense that he is just a confused, damaged and disturbed kid who was obsessed with his mother. Reality seems to have finally sunk in and he will have to live with the guilt of killing so many but especially his father whom he seemed to love for the rest of his life. It also shows us the unbelievable and unconditional love a mother is capable of feeling for her offspring. It also shows us that as parents we should all be ultra sensitive to the nuances and the vibes kids may send out. Do not give bows and arrows to a kid with a latent penchant for violence and do not ask a kid with this type of evil undercurrent to watch over his sister! A truly horryfying movie. The world may seem like a dark and hopeless place for a few days after you watch this.......


This film is one of the most chilling and yet superlative films I have seen in a long while. The acting throughout is exemplary and the visual narratives replave the epistolarly structure of Lionel Shriver's novel. It's a 5 out of 5 for this viewer


Need to see a lot more films, eh John Sebastian? I happen to have seen a fair few, and this is a pretty good one. As for the rest of your e-mail, the less said the better


This was an excellent film. It is horrific, but very thought-provoking. I found the direction and the acting very good indeed. The music suited the film very well.


A brilliantly executed nightmare of human nastiness and my favourite Swinton performance to date. The cinematography and sound design are beautiful as is the editing, just excellent. However where the film falls down is perhaps in the plot and execution of story. We're left almost wondering what the entire purpose of the film was, that's not to say the journey wasn't worthwhile.


D Glowacki could not have said it better. The book was excellent and while you can appreciate a film often can not live up to a book this falls far short. It was not boring exactly nor was it good. Certainly not worth the hype sadly.


very disappointing , not bad but nothing like as good as all the plaudints make it. cant make up mind whether to give it one or 2 stars. feeling generous and giving it two on basis it wasnt awgful awful


I went to see the film from the perspective of a counsellor who Often has to help clients make sense of why they are the way they are based on their own parenting. Tilda played an amazing part in her portrayal of a woman, enjoying her life and lust of a man before finding herself pregnant. Her resentment of the boy from the day he was born had a huge impact on the way that he was able to attach to his mother and so came the long 16 year battle for the both of them to find the love from One another that they both do desperately craved but were too stubborn to do anything about. I don't think that some of the reviewers have truly understood the impact of a mothers rejection at the all important early stages of a child's development and the ensuing massacre was proof of how affected the child was because of this. Brilliant film if you can read between the lines.


I went to see the film from the perspective of a counsellor who Often has to help clients make sense of why they are the way they are based on their own parenting. Tilda played an amazing part in her portrayal of a woman, enjoying her life and lust of a man before finding herself pregnant. Her resentment of the boy from the day he was born had a huge impact on the way that he was able to attach to his mother and so came the long 16 year battle for the both of them to find the love from One another that they both do desperately craved but were too stubborn to do anything about. I don't think that some of the reviewers have truly understood the impact of a mothers rejection at the all important early stages of a child's development and the ensuing massacre was proof of how affected the child was because of this. Brilliant film if you can read between the lines.


As a mother of three children (one of whom is autistic), I could really relate to this film. I thought it was brilliantly acted and it held my attention throughout! It is a film that I will always remember! Loved it!


As a mother of three children (one of whom is autistic), I could really relate to this film. I thought it was brilliantly acted and it held my attention throughout! It is a film that I will always remember! Loved it!


Boring. Boring. Boring. Don't waste your money especially if you are seeking entertainment. As others have said it is irritatingly repetitive with many of the scenes either being entirely irrelevant or simply non sequiturs. I agree with Turkey's comments and just wish that I had not wasted my time. Once again beware of the professional's 5 star reviews.


An irritating film at best..A story that has no subtlety,no proper characterisation or unfolding narrative..So what does this film have..It has a certain tension,but because that tension is held continuously through the film,the tension soon becomes monotonous.You get a scene showing how much of a brat the boy is,but instead of then moving the story on,you get another 10 scenes repeating the same message.(the subtlety of a sledgehammer).The whole film is a series of 1 minute scenes of repetition..Swinton is great,but her part calls for the same repeat scenes of endless anxiety and coldness,so her part is purely one dimensional.The husband is too much of a daft idiot to be credible and ultimately the whole film lacks credibility and diversity..The blood is overdone,the misery is just too gratuitous


I thought this film was excellent. I went to see it with my partner, who is an action film fan! I have read the book, but he hadn't. I was surprised that he also though it was brilliant. It was magnetic and absorbing, and yes, somewhat harrowing. The film presents two personalities - mother and son, their relationship, and the events that culminate in a high school massacre. When we hear in the news of such unfathomable events we always strive to understand why they happen. I think that the film takes such an event and opens up the fictional family of the perpetrator for dissection and inspection in order to find answers. The fact that the film provides no answers is, I believe, ruthlessly true to life. That even when you have all the facts the answer can be still unclear. And I got at least two hours worth of film-related conversation out of my fella afterwards while we batted around theories based on our differing perceptions of the characters. This is in stark contrast to most of the films we go and watch where the post-cinema conversation extends barely beyond - 'What did you think then?', 'Alright w'ontit?'


I thought this film was excellent. I went to see it with my partner, who is an action film fan! I have read the book, but he hadn't. I was surprised that he also though it was brilliant. It was magnetic and absorbing, and yes, somewhat harrowing. The film presents two personalities - mother and son, their relationship, and the events that culminate in a high school massacre. When we hear in the news of such unfathomable events we always strive to understand why they happen. I think that the film takes such an event and opens up the fictional family of the perpetrator for dissection and inspection in order to find answers. The fact that the film provides no answers is, I believe, ruthlessly true to life. That even when you have all the facts the answer can be still unclear. And I got at least two hours worth of film-related conversation out of my fella afterwards while we batted around theories based on our differing perceptions of the characters. This is in stark contrast to most of the films we go and watch where the post-cinema conversation extends barely beyond - 'What did you think then?', 'Alright w'ontit?'


I think there are enough warnings below that in failing to heed them, should you see this movie the two hours of misery you end up bringing upon yourself is entirely your fault. This isn't the worst movie ever, but it's not far off. John C Reily is wasted. They should give out Prozac with tickets to this movie.


As the audience reviews say below, this film is flawed and overrated. Don't go expecting a 5 star film - make sure you're sitting somewhere close to an aisle so you can easily leg it if you get fed up with this film - I nearly did myself. Not a happy film, and as for the "thought provoking" mentioned here, pah, not at all. For the umpteenth time in her career, Tilda Swinton plays an uptight type, who this time doesn't get on with her newborn son.


From the director's perspective it's flawless, but there are a lot of flaws with the film, mainly regarding it's the lack of character outside Tilda Swinton's and with the plot; which I believe came from the novel itself. Ezra Miller in particular seemed wasted by his dialogue, but still manages to have an electrifying presence on screen. Not a masterpiece but excellent nonetheless.


This is a brilliant film. I can't believe how pompous and pretentious some of the above comments are. It all reads like people trying to prove how much cleverer they are than everyone else. This film is thought provoking, intelligent and uttely engaging. Please do go and watch it, we need to support proper film making.


This is a brilliant film. I can't believe how pompous and pretentious some of the above comments are. It all reads like people trying to prove how much cleverer they are than everyone else. This film is thought provoking, intelligent and uttely engaging. Please do go and watch it, we need to support proper film making.


I thought this film was well acted and directed, though not hugely enjoyable. Hence the 3 stars. It is worth seeing, I guess it shows what a lottery child rearing can be. It would be nice to see Tilda play a different character.


I was surprised to see TO awarded this film 5 stars, but remembered previous TO trips to festivals had also resulted in films being given (to my mind) generous ratings. The publicity machine swung into furious action when Swinton starred in “I am Love� (2010) - TO awarded it 5 stars, and the audience 3 stars. . Tilda Swinton seems forever typecast as chilly remote types, and isn’t really any different in this. This time Swinton’s character gives birth to a Damien (of the Omen) type baby, and the two are then at loggerheads pretty much from day one. Flashback type storytelling is very widely used in many movies, and here I thought it was used excessively. I found this film depressing and hard work. I was relieved when it was over. I certainly wouldn’t see it again, or get it on DVD. If I feel a good film like “Drive� is worthy of 3 stars (and it’s one of the best on the circuit at the moment), then this is only worthy of 2 stars. I had a feeling this film wouldn’t be up to much when I saw that the author of the book on which this film is based rated it 5 stars – let’s face it, he’s hardly going to say it’s overrated *o11ocks.


Interesting, powerful and entertaining, but seriously flawed. My main problem with the film is that it seems to expect the viewer to accept a number of bizarre incidents because they serve a symbolic function despite being utterly implausible. The kid choosing to soil it's nappy out of pure spite and vindictiveness towards the mother (aged under 3!?) for example. Questions arose about Eva's choices that seemed inexplicable other than to serve the films narrative. For example, why after she has lost everything and she is left in a town filled with people who openly despise her, and even assault her, does she not simply move away? She originally moved to the town reluctantly from NY at her husbands insistence so why not escape to anonymity somewhere else. This option is ignored to enable the story to pile on heavy handed symbolism of washing of the blood guilt from her life (the red paint on the house). Elsewhere they symbolism is laid on with a trowel - lychees for eyes; oozing red jam from sandwiches. Kevin's malevolence is relentless and one dimensional - he is portrayed as pure evil form day one. OK, I know many say that this is Eva's subjective view of Kevin...perhaps. But it cuts off the option of seeing any other side of the story, for example the possibility of Eva's failings as a mother, just to add nuance. Instead Kevin is so demonic as to be absurd - how could anyone raise him to be good? The father is blind to the point of stretching credulity, especially after the daughter's injury. And finally, the choice of weapon of a crossbow does seem to stand out as peculiar. High school massacres are notoriously linked to issues about gun ownership in the US except here the issue is the elephant in the room and sidestepped completely. Why? Unfortunately I think this film is being overhyped, not least by Time Out who really should know better. I suspect its to make amends for the fact that Lynne Ramsey has been so unfairly overlooked (her first new film in ten years) for which I have sympathy - she is a fantastic film maker (Ratcatcher) and deserves better. But skewing reviews to those more favoured from a wider perspective rather than just assessing the film at hand isn't the way to go.


I HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK BUT I HEARD ABOUT IT SO I WAS MOST INTERESTED TO WATCH THE FILM. AND THE FILM IS APPALLING. ONE OF THE WORST FILMS I HAVE EVER SEEN. FIRST OF ALL, THEY (THE DIRECTOR AND THE SCREENWRITER) TAKE FOR GRANTED THAT YOU ALREADY KNOW WHAT'S ALL ABOUT SO THEY SKIPTHE STORY TELLING. THERE'S NO STORY BUT FRAGMENTS, FLASHBACKS, BACK AND FOR. THEY DIDN'T EVEN BOTHER TO BUILD SOLID CHARACTERS BUT DUMMIES. THERE'S NO SERIOUS PSYCOLOGHY AROUND. AND THEN THE MASSACRE. HOW ON EARTH A KID ARMED WITH A BOW AND ARROWS CAN CAUSE A MASSACRE?. COME ON, AFTER STRIKING THE FIRST ARROW HE'LL BE KNOCKED DOWN BY ANYONE. BUT THE SKIP THE MASSACRE TOO BECAUSE THEY TAKE FOR GRANTED THAT YOU ALREADY KNOW ABOUT IT. ANYWAY, DON'T GO, DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME AND YOUR MONEY. THAT'S NOT REALITY.


The film is mesmerising. It's beautifully shot and the acting brilliant. The story flits between her life before Kevin's atrocity and after it. Tilda Swinton gives an incredible performance of a mother who is lost. She doesn't know what to do. It does have done flaws though. When growing up Kevin seems to have obvious behavioural problems but her parents don't seem to ever even think about getting psychological help. There is also the issue of the atrocity at the school commited by Kevin. Was one of the reasons he did it because he was bullied there? This is never shown. All in all though it is a devastating film and definitely recommended.


I am not an intellectual but I do consider myself intelligent. Lets not get too pompous- its a film. A fantastic, thought provoking, disturbing film. I watched it from the viewpoint of a mother who experienced difficulties with her teenage son, and it is every mothers nightmare. The full range of emotions is explored, guilt, hatred, love, responsibility, suspicion to name but a few. The film addresses that taboo subject of not liking ones own offspring, you can re home an errant dog but not your own kids. I really feel for Eva (the mother) because sometimes you just don't know where your child came from. Most children grow out of growing pains and some turn into Kevin, you just have to keep your fingers crossed.


I am not an intellectual but I do consider myself intelligent. Lets not get too pompous- its a film. A fantastic, thought provoking, disturbing film. I watched it from the viewpoint of a mother who experienced difficulties with her teenage son, and it is every mothers nightmare. The full range of emotions is explored, guilt, hatred, love, responsibility, suspicion to name but a few. The film addresses that taboo subject of not liking ones own offspring, you can re home an errant dog but not your own kids. I really feel for Eva (the mother) because sometimes you just don't know where your child came from. Most children grow out of growing pains and some turn into Kevin, you just have to keep your fingers crossed.


Lynne Ramsey is a very talented director. Why did she have to wait 10 years before being given a chance to make a film when all those hack male directors are out there churning out crap every year?


Lynne Ramsey is a very talented director. Why did she have to wait 10 years before being given a chance to make a film when all those hack male directors are out there churning out crap every year?


Amazing. I thought this was a perfect cinematic rendition of the novel. The subject matter IS thought provoking - the ideas aren't that monstrous children and terrified parents exist - the whole idea of a monstrous child is held up for scrutiny and examined in an intriguing way - but of course this is an adaptation, so the central ideas are those of Lionel Shriver not Lynne Ramsay. In relation to the film itself, the editing, the visuals, and particularly the use of sound and music were fascinating. Some amazing performances, particularly from the kids. Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller are perfect in their roles and really beautiful to watch. Loved it, am going back!


Amazing. I thought this was a perfect cinematic rendition of the novel. The subject matter IS thought provoking - the ideas aren't that monstrous children and terrified parents exist - the whole idea of a monstrous child is held up for scrutiny and examined in an intriguing way - but of course this is an adaptation, so the central ideas are those of Lionel Shriver not Lynne Ramsay. In relation to the film itself, the editing, the visuals, and particularly the use of sound and music were fascinating. Some amazing performances, particularly from the kids. Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller are perfect in their roles and really beautiful to watch. Loved it, am going back!


The film is pretty flawless which is more than you can say for this review. The baby's cry doesn't segue into the sound of a road drill. Swinton's mother uses the road drill to drown out the sound of her baby crying. Another one of those reviews where you get rather too clever and read too much into what is one of the stre ngths of the film - its simplicity.


The film is pretty flawless which is more than you can say for this review. The baby's cry doesn't segue into the sound of a road drill. Swinton's mother uses the road drill to drown out the sound of her baby crying. Another one of those reviews where you get rather too clever and read too much into what is one of the stre ngths of the film - its simplicity.


I THOUGHT THE MOVIE BRILLIANT THE LAST 5 STAR MOVIE I RATED WAS TRUE GRIT...but it will alienate audiences.. i sat between 2 strangers both femaies who did not like it ... it does challenge older mothers who have kids while still maintaining a career but back to the film the use of coloure and sound,great performances all round and ironic use of music... did brian wilson really allow in my room to be used... well done lynne turning a silk purse into a silk purse with a loit of red on it


I THOUGHT THE MOVIE BRILLIANT THE LAST 5 STAR MOVIE I RATED WAS TRUE GRIT...but it will alienate audiences.. i sat between 2 strangers both femaies who did not like it ... it does challenge older mothers who have kids while still maintaining a career but back to the film the use of coloure and sound,great performances all round and ironic use of music... did brian wilson really allow in my room to be used... well done lynne turning a silk purse into a silk purse with a loit of red on it


Brilliant, provocative, frightening and utterly cinematic work of art. Bringing up the worst case scenario of parenting raises up a lot of uncomfortable truths of the human condition. Tilda Swinton starts as a character with as much verve and joy for life as any one passionate person can and internally demolishes herself throughout the film with each passing year as Kevin's mother, and right at the start the selective editing allows us to go back and forth between this woman in her former childless glory and the haunting shell of a woman at rock bottom after the fact.


Brilliant, provocative, frightening and utterly cinematic work of art. Bringing up the worst case scenario of parenting raises up a lot of uncomfortable truths of the human condition. Tilda Swinton starts as a character with as much verve and joy for life as any one passionate person can and internally demolishes herself throughout the film with each passing year as Kevin's mother, and right at the start the selective editing allows us to go back and forth between this woman in her former childless glory and the haunting shell of a woman at rock bottom after the fact.


Independenly of the quality of this film, I do reckon that Time Out forgot to mention in this page, that this film screening at LFF is sponsored by Time Out.


This film is hard to see but it is an excellent drama! I saw it at Cannes' film festival


This film is hard to see but it is an excellent drama! I saw it at Cannes' film festival

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