We Need to Talk about Kevin

Director: Lynne Ramsay
Starring: Tilda Swinton
Runtime: 112 minutes
Rating: *****

Not many actors can pull off appearing in almost every single frame of a film. Especially when not much happens in it. Thank goodness, then, for Tilda Swinton, who turns an already brilliant premise (from Lionel Shriver’s novel) into a tour de force.

The film charts the relationship between Swinton’s Eva and the titular Kevin, a sneering and ever-so-disturbing teenager with an obsessive fondness for archery and a near-sociopathic attitude towards his parents. If Swinton carries the film (and she does), relative newcomer Ezra Miller gives the film an extra shine, striking fear into the hearts of the audience even in his first appearance as a 15-year-old Kevin.

Everything in this film is very tightly packed, despite sprawling over 18 years. No scene feels superfluous, each one building both Kevin and Eva to breaking point. The father in the film, Franklin (played by John C. Reilly as not much more than a compelling section of the wallpaper), becomes more and more distant as the film progresses, as mother and son begin to exist in a sort of vacuum, where neither can see beyond the other for some sort of resolution. The conclusion of the film becomes to feel more and more inevitable, but everything is taken slowly; the tension builds and builds until something snaps, and all the viewer can do is watch the catastrophe unfold.

We Need To Talk About Kevin is by no means a cheerful experience. However, against all odds, it might just turn out to be a film with a great, big, beating heart at its centre. Considering that this is a story that may as well be considered a treatise on how to practise hostility, that’s a remarkable achievement.

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