on 26 October 2014
This is slow, it isn't action packed, it is not a horror, although the storyline is based on the horrific actions of a deeply disturbed child.
I have the impression that people expect jam packed action and gratuitous gore from all movies these days, I am glad this film didn't give into that, it kept its depth and subtleties giving the characters and mother/son relationship the attention it deserves. Although it is based around acts of extreme violence, its focus is not on the violence itself, but the relationship between a mother and son, and the nature and development of psychopathy.
The pain of trying to connect and continue a strained relationship was very well portrayed. I enjoyed the way the scenes jumped from past to present day, it added complexity to it and the outcome unfolded slowly.
Unlike some reviewers I enjoyed the re occurring use of 'redness'. It portrays the nature of trauma, how everything becomes tainted by one event, how reminders of it are everywhere and it highlighted the implication of the parent being responsible for the actions of the child- having blood on their hands.
I liked that the mother was completely un likeable at times and how a child can be so unloveable, both were infuriating and it questions the reality and expectations of motherhood and the sacrifices people make (or don't). The back and forth between time jumps shows the constant questioning a parent must go through when thinking 'Where did it all go wrong?' It shows all the points that a parent might look back at with hindsight and say 'did I do the right thing?' 'Was I to blame?'.
Tilda Swinton's performance is outstanding as usual and the casting of the son and his performance was very good indeed as were the child actors, which can be hard to find.
I did not enjoy the actor playing the father so much, purely because I've only seen him in comedy roles before and as his character was so under developed (albeit necessary) I wasn't able to see past that, he didn't add anything to the role because the role was so limited.
It was slow, dragged out, which gave you a sense of that painful, drawn out existence a person lives in after such an event: existence without living.
Whether some of the techniques used are perceived as cliched or not, it worked and I'm glad they didn't over do the gore, that would have been tacky and disrespectful towards those who have experienced such tragedies in real life.
It is a painful story, it doesn't make for easy viewing and it isn't one I'd watch again, but it is captivating and made me think about the nature of love, maternal bonds and psychopathy.
on 6 March 2012
As a retired teacher of 34 years here in New York, the movie made me think back to the times I have had to deal with disturbed students with that "look in their eye". The movie was well-acted with Ezra Miller doing a phenomenal job as Kevin. The actor that portrayed Kevin at a younger age was also great. John C. Reilly as the father made me think of the parents I have dealt with who are the "enablers"- the ones who refuse to accept that there is a problem. This film has been a great discussion point among myself and my friends, teachers and non-teachers, parents and non-parents. The big debate : What created a child like Kevin and how could he have been dealt with ? Are there any right answers ? I highly recommend this film, but be prepared to experience a myriad of emotions.
The film shows in non-linear flashback how Eva has come to live her present solitary life. She works as low paid office drudge, tries to avoid people and is subject to random and apparently unmotivated violence and vandalism from the neighbours. On her days off she visits her son Kevin, in prison. These are often wordless encounters but lead to more glimpses of the past that gradually reveal the events that Eva is trying to come to terms with.
The cast is uniformly excellent There is the permanently on edge Eva played by Tilda Swinton. John C Riley plays her often bemused husband Franklin, who acts as the peacemaker in the unspoken battle of wills that is Eva and Kevin's relationship. The children who play Kevin from toddler to teenager portray him as chillingly self-possessed rather than devil-possessed and are more scary because of that. His inner rage is channelled into controlling manipulation which he hones over the years. It is not all one sided though, Eva cannot not avoid looking at the part she may have played in making a monster. Was Kevin unlovable or just unloved?
The restrained film making focusses on the escalating consequences of Kevin's behaviour and the failure to address it, in a way that seems plausible. The script is naturalistic. The use of colour and light is effective in triggering memories which make sense even while they are not in order.
This is a thought provoking watch.
Eva (Tilda Swinton) is a wife and mother who has just experienced the last in a series of shattering incidents. In flashbacks, we see her happy life change forever with the birth of her unusual son. From that first day, she never feels any bond with him while he seems equally detached from and even hateful toward her.
This is an incredibly intense and heartbreaking film, dealing with the problem of alienation, the nature of familial love, and unspeakable violence. All of the actors are excellent and I'm surprised they and the movie didn't get some Oscar nominations. Swinton is utterly convincing as the emotionally-drained mother; she kept me on the edge of my seat every second. John C. Reilly is very likable as the naïve, loving husband. The three young actors who play Kevin are remarkable; their performances are so intense I could barely watch them, yet couldn't look away. The flashback format is sometimes confusing but helps to convey the chaotic, emotional, roller coaster that is Eva's life.
This chilling, excruciatingly sad story is hard to watch, but the acting, writing, and direction are just outstanding. Highly recommended (but not if you're looking for a fun movie).
on 9 May 2012
Ok - so I am reading the book and just about getting into it. I started to read it on the basis that everyone told me I MUST read it if I thought the film was good. It isn't the usual way round to do things but hey - I can't turn back time now.
First of all, then - I don't know whether this film does the book 100% justice - hence the 4* as opposed to five. What I do know, however, is that Eva's pain, misery, self-loathing and her harping back to her highly over-glamourised travelling past are all captured expertly - if you can take the fact that they are captured in tortuously slow, almost abstract shots. Second of all, you have to ask yourself, before watching this, do I like art films? If you don't like art films then I refer you to the latter half of my previous comment. A lot of the emotion in the book (as I have read so far) is conveyed with a lot of words. In the film, it is often conveyed with looks, not words. There is no narration and, for the first 15 or so minutes, very little dialogue. What is interesting is the way past and present are spliced together in this part of the film - her idealisation of her care-free past, set against the drudgery of living in the aftermath of an horrendous event. Conveyed with aplomb by both director and Swinton, Eva alternates between a kind of euphoria and a vapid, bewildered state of confused torment. Some may argue the red is overdone - I felt its relentlessness was suitably unforgiving and unforgettable.
So, the rest of the film. Well, the dialogue never really gets much above the odd one or two words and some may find that annoying. I didn't. I did wonder when things were going to get a little more "regular" but after a while I just settled to observing the family at work. So here seems to be a sensible juncture to mention the family. Eva, as I have mentioned, is played expertly by Swinton. She comes across as hedonistic and self-centred then resigned to her "fate" as a parent. She tries and tries - but it is clear that her heart is only in it because it has to be. Once or twice the director lets us know that directly - and when we see it, we see the trouble brewing. Franklin is also played to perfection by Reilly - an almost happy-go-lucky buffoon. Sadly, though, one we may all be familiar with.....post natal depression? C'mon, you'll get over it....kids cry, it'll pass......don't stifle him.....etc, etc. It's not quite that he is totally without concern as such - just that he has little idea of how to be effective. Once again, a fairly subtle performance of all this, too - nothing is ridiculously overt (as perhaps I may have painted it). Then there's the daughter - kind of cheery, her performance is solid and believable - she looks uncomfortably impressed with her brother; as if she doesn't quite know whether to be or not.
Then there's Kevin himself. At all stages, he is played with absolute chilling perfection. And a quick note about what chilling refers to here. Ever had one of those moments when you look someone in the eye, perhaps talking about some controversial issue, and get that sense of "I don't know you."? That lack of connection all of a sudden - the inability to empathise. That's what is chilling. The actors have not just been told to stare, they have been told to look like they don't care that they don't get Eva and don't want to. Ezra Miller is good at this because he has a face that is somewhat more suited to "that look" - but the younger child actor also manages it. Particularly when mocking his mother's speech. It's chilling because it simply says - so what? And it is done brilliantly here.
So - a quick note on the hoo-haa this novel and film have caused regarding the nature vs nurture debate. Many have argued this film seems to portray Kevin as pure evil from the start. This is clearly nonsense. It is made clear that neither mother nor father are particularly able as parents and are little interested in teaching Kevin anything about manners or behaviour. And that, really, is given away by the title, isn't it - we need to talk about Kevin but we never get round to it? So no, I am afraid this film does not go down the route of stating that the child is evil at birth. Awkward, maybe, but not evil. And it never really states emphatically that Kevin has been corrupted by poor parenting and that is the root of the problem, either. What is does, which is far more clever, is point out that Kevin is clever. Intuitive. Manipulative. He is able to "play" both parents and, with inadequate direction from either of them, eventually slips into total amorality.
Which brings me onto the subject of inherent evil. There is no such thing. Evil is a judgement made by society. Eva is considered evil, for example, by her neighbours. Some might regard her neighbours' actions as evil. It is not something diabolical (though its roots are, as a concept). It is behaviour which society deems unacceptable. It is society - parents, teachers, friends, relatives, the media, the government - who aim to teach children what is deemed evil and what is not. Therefore, what some people have called evil is simply someone not having been taught to give enough of a damn. To empathise. So, if he wants to do it, Kevin goes ahead and does it. He is a fictional example of someone who does what he wants because he wants to and never mind the consequences - and there appears to be no teaching him otherwise.
Whether you blame the parents, inadequate schooling, or an inherent wilfulness, this film leaves largely for you to decide.
It made my skin crawl and I was thinking about it for days after watching it. Very, very good.
on 23 October 2011
Having read the brilliant book by Lionel Shriver I was expecting a lot from this movie and it really didn't disappoint. A woman (Eva played by Tilda Swinton)gives birth to a son but suffering with some sort of depression cannot connect with her baby, the boy as he then grows up starts acting stranger and stranger until one fateful night onto which the movie builds. The film starts and carries on throughout going back and fourth from past to present it sounds a little disorienting but works very well, as we see the town having a hatred towards Eva and gradually seeing why this is (although it's fairly obvious what he did). There is almost no violence on screen in the film but the colour red is very prominant from the opening shot on, also the film very heavy in symbalism the lychee scene is one example -kevins sister had an injury to her eye he just peels and chews on one. Performance wise The two leads are excellent Ezra Miller as teenage kevin is chillingly realistic in his portrayal, John C Reilly is good but in a pretty thankless role as the father, also Jasper Newell as young kevin is very good, but the film belongs to the astounding Tilda Swinton as the troubled Eva, it would have been very easy to over play her role but she gives a very controled but fantastic performance. Scottish Director Lynne Ramsey comes back brilliantly to directing after a 10 year gap and with this under her belt it certainly won't be another 10 years until her next film. Recommended to anyone psychological thriller/horror's.
I read the novel, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN years ago when it first came out in paperback. I remember being incredibly impressed with how Shriver had managed to create such a well thought-out novel which centres around extremely difficult issues to face. When I discovered that a film had been made from it, I was intrigued to find out how they would have managed to recreate this on screen. Within the novel, Kevin's mum takes the reader through her story in the way of written letters to her husband. Following her son's terrible crime, she is trying to piece together the reasons behind it. The novel very much focuses on her feelings about motherhood, as well as the difficulty she had in bonding with Kevin. The sub plot becomes her trying to assess just how responsible, if at all, she was for her son's actions. I was expecting this to be lost during the translation from page to screen. Happily though, I can say that ultimately, the screen writer, producer and director have done a great job. Of course, it also helps that the actors all put in a really good performance.
WE NEED TOTALK ABOUT KEVIN is an extremely difficult film to watch. It is well put together but the issues and questions it raises makes the experience an uncomfortable one.
on 5 May 2012
Tilda Swinton acts as a strong heart to this film, having to convey many states, from travel-writer and explorer, to mother, to the vilified mother of a monster after her teeneage son commits an atrocity.
Most of it is portrayed with exceptional skill. Swinton excels at the brittle and shattered mother struggling to get by amidst the torrent of hate and judgement heaped her way every day, but she's always been good at playing the wounded or the outsider. Playing Kevin's unwilling mother - unable to bond with her baby, and unable to get him to warm to her either - she's also very good. Where she utterly failed to convince me was as the 'carefree explorer' and travel writer who lived for adventure. In those segments she never feels anything other than a performer going through the motions. Luckily they're sparse. However, they're also quite chilling. The films opens with her explorer self crowd-surfing at the 'la Tomatina' Spanish event where crowds pelt each other with ripe tomatoes, and the film plays the crowds writhing and covered in red with eerie hints of screams and panic echoing in to echo the future atrocity Kevin will commit. It's a memorable opening, and the film remains as visually strong throughout.
Much praise has been heaped upon Ezra Miller for what is undoubtedly an extremely assured and powerful performance as the teenage Kevin, but as much credit should be given to Jasper Newell playing the 6-8 year old version who actually carries most of the running time. It's during the earlier years that we see Swinton's character struggling to coax any reaction except cold emnity from her child, as if he senses the fact that he was unwanted, and he reacts in kind.
These sequences are a masterful power play of manipulation, passive aggression and emotional violence, with the oblivious father played by John C Reilly breezing into them to be greeted by a suddenly charming and chirpy child.
The film is convincing in the emotional reactions of all involved, and there are emotionally shattering and true-feeling moments in the aftermath of the tragedy. The student who doesn't hold a grudge despite his own hardship, and the co-worker who thinks he can take advantage ring especially surprising but true.
As the teenage Kevin, Miller is as malevolent, manipulative and charming as a cobra, sociopathic in the extreme. Perhaps the strongest moment of the film is the scene where his mother has made exceptional efforts to try to heal their relationship only for him to cut her down with such a stinging, withering and contemptuous verbal barrage that you feel that anyone in her shoes would be equally struck dumb with shock.
While the film tastefully avoids showing much of the actual violence, it remains an emotionally brutalising ride, and puts a surprisingly emotional case forward, implying that while she may have been instrumental in the formation of a monster, the mother was suffering just as much as everybody else.
on 23 June 2013
The film is told in juxtaposing flashbacks with Kevin as a teen (Ezra Miller) and a child (Jasper Newell). It centers around his mother Eva (Tilda Swinton) whose life has gone from having fun in Paris to a living hell. We know Kevin ends up in jail over some haunting event which has caused everyone to hate Eva. The film shows us injured people, a little girl with an eye patch, a man in a wheel chair and we think "Kevin?" The film also likes to use the color red.
It is a mystery in which everyone knows what has happened except the audience. Kevin is smart, mean, and cynical. He seems to represent a generation raised on too much TV and computers, although we don't see him over indulging in either.
Tilda Swinton gives us a great performance in a script that is disjointed by design to give us a specific feel. If you like a film that is designed to make you feel drained after watching it, this is it.
PARENTAL GUIDE: F-bomb, sex, brief nudity.
on 13 January 2014
I came to the film after twice struggling to read & twice failing to connect with the book. Where the book left me confused, the film delivered a complete bombshell. It's deeply disturbing & raises a lot of issues.
I knew partly what the plot involved but I didn't know the details, so I sat mesmerised as the story unfolded before my eyes. The film flips between Eva (Tilda Swinton) in the present day struggling to come to terms with what her son has done & the story of Kevin's life building up to that fateful day. To begin with this was slightly confusing but as the film went on, it all began to slot into place. Jasper Newell & Ezra Miller as Kevin completely made the film for me. They both managed to play this disaffected, unemotional boy to a tee & I was taken in with their performances.
It's a very unsettling film that leaves you with a lot of "What ifs" to think about. The film has encouraged me to give the book one last try.