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We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need To Talk About Kevin
2011, Lynne Ramsay

I went into this one the best way: without reading the book first. It's too difficult for me to evaluate a movie on its own merits if I have a book to compare it to. Anyway, for some reason I canít put my finger on, Iíve been thinking about this movie, like, non-stop since I watched it. That happens to me sometimes. In this case, Iím not sure why (or maybe I do and it scares me to admit it or something, I dunno). I wasnít even going to write a review about it, but Iíve thought about it so much it seems a waste not to.

Told mainly in hindsight, the story unfolds through snippets of memories Ė Tilda Swinton is Eva, a young newlywed who gives birth to a son she names Kevin. As the movie progresses and Kevin ages, he exhibits what appears to be construed as early signs of sociopathic tendencies, but this is mostly left up to viewer interpretation. Itís interesting the way itís done, though, Iíve never seen it from this angle. Most movies Iíve seen about serial killersí childhoods has always been more one-dimensional than this. As itís told from the motherís POV, it shows her anxiety over her sonís lack of communication and detachment from other people. The strange part is while he rejects any affection she tries to give him and seeks out ways to be cruel towards her, he adores and seeks affection from his father much like many young boys would.

The mother/son relationship here was easily the most fascinating thing about this movie. It's like Eva tries to be maternal and loving, but it never comes off genuine or relaxed; her every action is forced and resentful. This in turn made her a very unsympathetic character - and that's saying a lot, because her son is awful to her. The ongoing power struggle between mother and son is so unsettling that it makes for awkward viewing, to say the least. I'm wondering if it's the intention of the author to make the viewer think that Kevin's contrary cruelty is a result of his own mum's lack of real emotion. It's like the harder she tries to coddle him and love him, the more obvious it seems she wants nothing to do with him.

Kevin, even from an extremely young age, continuously challenges and psycho analyzes everything his mother does. Since the narrative jumps back and forth a lot from the present day to about 10 and 15 years prior, the viewer is actually shown the end result without context. This being the case, I initially doubted that the person we need to talk about was actually Kevin, but rather the mum.

For what the movie lacks in straightforwardness it more than makes up for it with the use of symbolism. I suppose one could say a lot of symbolism isnít ever really straightforward, since itís something which represents something else entirely, but We Need To Talk About Kevin is so in-your-face with it that it actually gets really sickening. No joke, Iím pretty sure there is something red in every frame of the film. It seems pointless to have blatant symbolism Ė isnít it supposed to be sort of vague and hidden, like a sort of poetic backdrop to the story at hand?

Anyway, since I'm not really sure what this movie deserves exactly, I'm going to rate it based on how much it's made me think and how unsettled it made me feel (answer: a lot).