Director: Lynne Ramsay
Wow. I am still reeling from this one…I think this is going to be one of those that really sticks with me long after I’ve seen it. (Sidenote: I viewed this on 1/24/12 and now that I’m entering this review well after the fact, I can say with certainty that I was right! It did indeed stay with me…perhaps longer than I’d have liked, which is, in my experience, truly an indication of its power.)
I knew going in that it was going to be disturbing and difficult subject matter, though not how it would be presented or play out. Indeed it was horrifically harrowing, yet I was engrossed and engaged from start to finish. Though it left some questions unanswered (and there were a few aspects with which I took issue), overall I thought it was a superbly-done and extremely well-acted film.
We learn early on that the son (the Kevin of the title) – and first child – of Tilda Swinton’s character, Eva, commits some sort of heinous act on par with a Columbine or other such violent school tragedy. We are, bit by bit, led to the final reveal of that through both flashbacks and scenes set in the present day. It does quite a nice job of building characters and setting the stage without revealing too much. In fact, nothing quite prepares you for the extent of the tragedy that ensues…
…which actually leads me to one of my issues with the film. Given what we learn by the film’s end, it’s hard to understand why Eva is ostracized and shunned to the degree that she is. Is it really realistic that so much blame be put upon the mother of a seemingly mentally ill child? Why is so much hatred projected onto her? I felt such grave sympathy for what this woman feels and experiences throughout the film, even long before the “transgression” is committed. I really felt her pain, frustration, and helplessness, her sincerity, her longings to connect, her concern, anger, resignation, her love – every range of emotion she experiences. Which may not have been the case in the hands of a less skilled and capable actress ~ Swinton’s stoic gaze and wide expressive eyes speak volumes, without so much as a word. She is riveting to watch. (And thus was, in my opinion, robbed of an Oscar nomination for this role.)
Ezra Miller is equally effective as her teenage son. He is strikingly handsome with his beautiful chiseled features, dark hair and eyes, and full (ironically) heart-shaped lips, all of which make his almost demonic evil that much more chilling in contrast. He is truly terrifying.
You see Eva’s discomfort with/misgivings over motherhood with her first child, yet you also truly empathize with her and see her genuinely trying. (If ever there was a film advertisement for birth control, this is it!)
There are moments/scenes that really stick with me, as when Kevin gets sick and, for the first time, actually seems to warm to his mother, showing her affection. You FEEL that victory for Eva. And then it’s over just as suddenly and it’s heartbreaking to know her hopes for connection with him have been dashed.
There is a profuse use of the color red, which I’d say verges on being overdone. We get it already! Red symbolizes danger, violence, blood spilled…enough! It is unsettling from the first frame when (in what I was unable to determine was either a dream sequence or a flashback), Eva is body-surfing through a crowd of people covered in a red “glop”…she appears joyful, but what is this mystery substance? It could be tomato sauce or just as easily blood and guts. It’s far from appetizing, to be sure.
There is a fair amount of juxtaposition throughout the film – a “happy” song accompanying a scene of clearly great anguish – as if Eva is trying her best to shut out the pain or forget. It’s remarkable what this woman endures and that she carries on in spite of it…her reasons for which I’d love to understand more. Does she feel an obligation to remain (living) for her son? Is it out of love for him? Is it out of guilt? Is it simply a need or hope for answers and/or closure? There does seem to be a slight and subtle “breaking through” at the film’s end, which almost leaves a glimmer of hope…though it’s impossible to erase all that we’ve witnessed.
In all, the film is visually arresting, beautifully framed and hauntingly powerful. We Need To Talk About Kevin IS worth talking about.