Monday, March 12, 2012

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a Brilliant Tale About Evil Propelled by Great Acting

We Need to Talk About Kevin (4 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by Lynne Ramsay (Morvern Cavern)
Written by Lynne Ramsay and Rory Kinnear
Starring: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, and Ezra Miller

This movie is about discomfort and a situation so horrific and tragic you will walk out of the theatre feeling as though you took a punch to the gut.  One trend I noticed about movies this year is that some of the best thrillers, that keep you on the edge of your seat do not involve ghosts or guys with masks, but are stories that delve into the human pysche and show the reality of darkness in the human soul.  

We Need to Talk About Kevin takes the viewer on a dark journey.  The film is based on a book by Lionel Shriver.  The film and the book are both about fictional high school massacre.  Both are told from the point of view of Kevin's mother Eva Khatchadourian (Swinton).  In the book the story is told from the perspective of Eva writing letters to her husband, while the film uses brilliant editing techniques to jump back forth in time to follow Swinton as she copes with what her son has done, and from the inception of his birth. 

 Even though the plot is scattered the film focuses on Eva and Frank who were young lovers. and unexpectedly Eva gets pregnant with Kevin.  Through her facial expressions it is clear that Eva was not done as a world traveler and Kevin who was not planned has ruined the dreams she once had.  Meanwhile Frank is happy to become a member of the suburban society.  As Kevin grows up he displays sociopathic tendencies.  With sheer manipulation he is able to control his mother.  Kevin wears a diaper until he is about what looks to be 7, and when he taunts his mother taking a shit she throws him and he break his arm.  Kevin gets a scar and points to this scar as a way to say I am in control of you.  As Frank and Eva have another child and Kevin ages he starts to have an affinity for bow and arrows and making his younger system a source of his torment.

Ramsay uses her great script and superb direction to help guide the story as we watch the past unfold while Eva is living in the present having to deal with a son who murdered and hurt numerous individuals.  Ramsay script while not perfect races to build one of the most intense taught thrilling film experiences I have experienced; she crafts a dark and twisted journey through the eyes of a mother who knows that her son is evil and is almost powerless to stop him.

The strongest part of this film is the brilliant performance by Tilda Swinton; she is raw, vulnerable, and provides the best lead performance by an actress from 2011.  Swinton's Eva is someone who conveys every emotion in her face; she knows there is something wrong with her son and it no one seems to want to believe her including her husband.  I loved watching her triumph when Kevin was sick as a young boy and even though she never wanted to be a mom you could feel the joy and pure happiness when her son wanted her to read to him.  The next day when he starts to feel better and he tells her to go away this joy quickly drains.  Watching Swinton as she copes with things before and after the massacre shows just how lifeless and she becomes and what little energy she had disappears.  Swinton is one of the best actresses today.

What would this film be without the three terrific younger actor who played the sociopath Kevin?  Rocky Duer played infant Kevin, Jasper Newell played 6-8 year old Kevin, and Ezra Miller played 15-18 year old Kevin.  Each actor added a new layer to the character development.  Duer while a young baby conveyed everything in his eyes showing there was already something wrong with this child at a young age.  Newell carried on those terrible two's to a whole new level and to a whole different age range.  While Miller takes the darkness to its completion taunting his younger sister, forcing her to get a glass eye, and making her feel less than. This is one of the most intricately evil characters, on the level of Charles Manson.  Why did Kevin do what he did?  Where did these evil ways come from?

The most haunting part about this film is that it insinuates evil is innate, and that people like Kevin will follow down the path no matter what.  The film had me cringing thinking about the moments Kevin and his mother Eva felt and experienced these dark moments.  While some may discredit the unique way in which this story is told and think Ramsay uses too much style like with the constant use of the red paint and red imagery in the days after the massacre.  I have to applaud this film for taking a daring risk to tell such a difficult story, and using the performances to elevate this film to a whole new level.

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