We Need to Talk About Kevin
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A suspenseful and gripping psychological thriller, Lynne Ramsay's WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN explores the fractious relationship between a mother and her evil son. Tilda Swinton, in a bracing, tour-de-force performance, plays the mother, Eva, as she contends for 15 years with the increasing malevolence of her first-born child, Kevin (Ezra Miller).Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN explores nature vs. nurture on a whole new level as Eva's own culpability is measured against Kevin's innate evilness. Ramsay's masterful storytelling simultaneously combines a provocative moral ambiguity with a satisfying and compelling narrative, which builds to a chilling, unforgettable climax.
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A lot has already been said by other reviewers, but, I strongly disagree with the ones in the "you reap what you sow" category; to me, the mother certainly did not "sow" the child to be a psychopath. On the contrary, what makes this so horrifying is, at least from my perspective..she tried really hard to put on a happy face and be the best mother she could with a very difficult child - and not just difficult because it cried all the time as an infant - down right hateful for no reason. For example she tries to do normal parent things with her son...rolling him a ball...having him roll it back...and, while I agree it seems stupid for her to expect him to change his behavior after a few attempts of this - the kid's behavior is near demonic in his hateful glare during all the "normal" 2 year old "bonding" activities. The only other possible evidence I saw of her trying to do more than establish a sense of order in the face of her son's chaos, was her need to have the Robin Hood book in his room. The rest of the time it seems like she's just trying to offer him a normal childhood, but like the psychopath he is he keeps rejecting her. It's painful to watch her continually try to engage him when he is such a rejection-ful, horrific human specimen.
I guess unlike other viewers I felt very little sympathy for the "child" version of him. It did not seem like he was just a kid going through tough phases - but a kid who forced everything to be tough because he enjoyed watching his mother suffer. The scene where he continually poops his diaper when he is well old enough to go to the bathroom by himself (he looks to be 5 or 6) is a great example; it's not like he's 2-4 or something in that scene either...by my understanding it's not just that she's naturally a woman of very little patience for children...but that he willfully seeks to hurt her at every opportunity.
This obviously culminates in his inability to see her happy even for 1 day. Despite having literally put his sister's eye out, the family manages to enjoy a happy breakfast together. I think this, more than anything, makes the psychopath want to go on his killing spree - because he needs the negative attention and he is only happy when his mother is tortured. At the end, the mother seems to enjoy some kind of pathetic victory because she proves that she loves him even after he has literally taken everything away from her.
But I think that's the one note where the film loses credibility: I can't imagine even the most loving of mothers still loving/enabling him, especially after he kills her husband and other child. In fact, the film loses credibility on this note a little bit earlier when the son "allows" the daughter to put her eye out with Draino or something of that nature...and the Mom does not hospitalize him. I can see downrating the movie over this. It's almost as though she actually loves the son more than both her husband and daughter, to allow him to continue his destructiveness after hurting the sibling.
But maybe that's part of the masterpiece...how the mother, through her patient "love", however stressed out and resentful it may be...enables his behavior to grow worse and worse. Maybe the take home message is that she should have smacked his ass way earlier in the film, but, it's uncertain that that would result in anything with that child.
Either way, this is totally horrific for any mother. Thinking of being cursed with such a child - utterly devoid of any lovability...is truly terrifying. It challenges the "nurture" notion and hits hard with the "nature".
I think this film will forever change my patience level with my kids. I sometimes think my eldest is a handful, but at least he's not an afeeling psychopath!
Note: this film cannot be unseen. It will scar you for life.