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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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Let's start off with the negative review concerning the multiple timelines. I'll agree that, that was a bit distracting. At about the thirty minute mark I was considering turning this off because of how disjointed it felt. From what I understand, the book is the exact same way, so at the very least the director has kept to the source material. After having watched this til the end I feel that telling this story chronologically would make it less impacting. If you can stick with it, you'll piece things together and be less likely to be confused.
As for the disgruntled review from (presumably) a teacher, do tell us the combination needed to produce teenager killers. I'm a little confused on how formulaic you think the human mind functions. People kill for different reasons. People are pushed into killing for different reasons. By trying to play psychologist you muddy the film and what it portrays by dismissing what caused this individual to rampage. People aren't special snowflakes but neither are they all the same. Kevin was affected most by his mother as shown in scenes from the past.
It's hard to give love to someone when you understand that you are nothing but a nuisance to them. What should be understood was that Eva lacked the ability to bond with her son. It was apparent from a young age that Kevin wasn't wanted by her. Her frustrations and temperament were taken out on him since he was a toddler. It's no wonder that when he was a teenager she couldn't connect with him. By then it was too late. They had spent his whole life in this tangled weave where both would antagonize the other.
Eva suffers in the present. Scared and alone, she is trying to piece together a life that's broke. Her mundane daily activities makes the realism effective. She is as much a victim as any of the other parents (you know what she lost) but she is treated with scorn. It seems that others hold her accountable as if she was the one locking the doors of the school. Her whole life is left in disarray and she doesn't have a reason for it. Her son couldn't even answer her at the end because whatever the reason was at the time, it is no longer important.
A teenager's scope of understanding is narrow because their life experience is less than that of an adult. What they perceive is a certain length of distance and any obstacle seems to be mountainous. Given time they will understand that there is more beyond what they see and feel. Everything hurts more when we're young. Pain is relative. Why else would teenagers kill themselves? They've barely lived life and they're already ending it.
All Eva has left is her life (that she is trying to repair) and Kevin. Even after what he does she still visits him. She makes a room in her house for him. She endeavors to reach out and attempt to connect with him. In her own way, she loves him in spite of what he has done. Labeling him a monster doesn't feel right. Monster by definition is an inhumanly cruel or wicked person. Perhaps I empathize too much with Kevin to see him as purely black or white. However, his actions are monstrous by definition. Ezra Miller truly makes Kevin a complex, manipulative, and dangerous character. Tilda is haunting with her portrayal of Eva's suffering. There's a reason she won two separate awards for best actress.
This film isn't a hollow exploitation of school shootings. It shows one individual life's build up to it and it shows the damaging repercussions after it. When the credits appeared I was left with my emotions in a bundle and a desire to defend this film. Those who say this film is horrible or a waste of time, did you even watch it?
At the center of the film is Eva, her name immediately evoking the eternal questions of blame, original sin, nature and nurture. And Eva is no great shakes as the mother of a difficult - from birth - child, about whom she was ambivalent even during her pregnancy. When we meet her at the opening of the movie, she is clearly a person in great pain. And from the beginning of the movie, Eva is awash in red - Lady Macbeth red, red-faced shame, blood on her hands, emergency red. And we learn within moments that the people around her blame her every bit as much as she blames herself for what we find out during the course of the film.
And that next hour and forty minutes, give or take, just piles on the dread and red and sorrow and shame. And more dread. We need to Talk About Kevin does a stellar job of making you feel attracted and repulsed, hopeful and fearful, certain about what's to come but clinging to the possibility that you're wrong. Tilda Swinton disappears into Eva. SHe's why I decided to watch the movie, and by 5 minutes in, I'd forgotten it was her. Evan Miller is a preternaturally beautiful young man, as are the children who play the younger versions of Kevin. John C. Reilly always inhabits the nice guys and delivers reliably here. Of course Eva loves Franklin. Who wouldn't? And of course he is a doting dad.
In terms of story, we see clearly the moments on which the grieving and the guilty would look back. Every potential missed opportunity to change the outcome. And it's just devastating. Especially so, if you are a parent, but you don't have to have any kids for this movie to terrify you.