We Need to Talk About Kevin
Faithful adaptation of Lionel Shriver's bestselling story of motherhood and teen violence
Lynne Ramsay admirers can breathe a sigh of relief. Her first feature since Morvern Callar in 2002 confirms that she has lost none of her skill as a compelling storyteller or visual stylist. Her smart, thought-provoking adaptation of the Lionel Shriver bestseller maintains the narrative core of the book whilst rendering it in fresh cinematic terms.
Shriver’s novel confronts the aftermath of a Columbine-style high school massacre through a shell-shocked mother’s letters to her absent husband. Ramsay addresses exactly the same issues of guilt and a faulty, compromised maternal instinct by ignoring Shriver’s literary conceit and creating a dreamy, jigsaw-like film that deftly juggles time and perspective. Ramsay constantly emphasises vivid red from an opening scene at the La Tomatina festival to sticky strawberry jam and a wall of Campbell’s soup cans in a supermarket. It is the colour of blood of course and like Lady Macbeth, Eva is unable to escape it or wash it away.
Tilda Swinton is well cast as the steely, stoical Eva, a woman confronting her sense of failure and possible complicity in the acts of her son Kevin. Sifting through the memories of their past relationship she is seeking to answer whether his actions were her fault. Did she always resent him, did the supposedly natural bond between mother and child never flourish in this one case? Scenes appear like splinters of glass from a shattered mirror as the once vibrant Eva is transformed into a dead-eyed survivor taken to the edge by a child who reserved his affection exclusively for his eternally affable father Franklin (John C Reilly).
Ezra Miller is brilliant as the teenage Kevin; a boy with the sneering look of a malevolent Puck whose actions are unforgivable because they are so merciless and calculated. His Kevin is a monstrous figure who could test the limits of any mother’s love and he makes the film more chilling than any conventional horror story.
Selected release from Fri 21 Oct.