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We Need to Talk About Kevin

A 2011 film directed by Lynne Ramsay

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Move over Damien.

  • Jul 19, 2012
**** out of ****

The first shot in Lynne Ramsay's "We Need to Talk About Kevin" is of an open window. What lies beyond that window shocked me more than anything I have seen so far this year and last in the movies. It isn't something that I find offensive; but something cold, inhuman, and indecent. That's not going to sit well with a lot of people, and without spoiling what "it" is, I will say that Ramsay is a brave and talented director for not only showing what she had to but also presenting it in such a disturbing matter. Scenes like the one I am speaking of can be dealt with in one of two ways; poorly or damn well. Ramsay sets her sights on the latter way of staging such a difficult and hard-hitting sequence. It helps that everything before and after the scene is also handled masterfully. Here's a movie that I never agreed with or liked for a single moment. Here is a movie that is impossible to "like". But here is also a movie that deserves all the praise it's been receiving as much as it does to be merely seen by the movie-going public. It's a movie that sets out to make you feel like shit and succeeds like few can.

The narrative structure is presented as a visualization of what must be some kind of nervous breakdown. The person experiencing it is Eva Khatchadourian (Tilda Swinton). We see glimpses of her life throughout the film. But as it is now; she is alone in her vandalized little home popping pills every night and eating food that couldn't even be called half-decent. What happened? She seemed so happy before. Or was she ever really happy at all? The film switches out between past and present. We watch Eva as she meet, has sex with, marries the humanely clownish Franklin (John C. Reilly); gives birth to their first child Kevin (and later their second, Celia); and moves from house-to-house looking for the perfect place to raise their first child, who supplies the film with a part of its title.

Kevin is a peculiar child from the start. As a baby, he won't stop crying in his mother's presence but calms down when his father is around. As a toddler, he is unresponsive to Eva's attempts to connect and teach him a few things early on. Once he develops thorough speech, he puts it to elaborate use; cursing up a storm, gushing over how much he admires his dad, and mentally testing Eva's patience for his tendencies to poop his pants (sometimes intentionally) and act out in some rather distressing ways. Then come the adolescent years. Kevin is increasingly anti-social and even cruel, especially to his younger sister once she is born. He takes up the hobby of archery after his father introduces it to him, and by the end makes it something much more than just that.

The truth is; I don't really want to talk too much about Kevin for your own sake. What you need to know is that he is ruthless, sadistic, and merciless towards his mother. His relationship with her as a child is on-and-off, perhaps so he can deceive her, whereas during adolescence it is never on. Kevin does something truly horrific at his high school that we see coming from a mile away - mostly because the film hints at it through the fragmented footage of sirens, red lights, and the schoolyard occupied by screaming students and adults. What he does puts him in jail. We see footage from that point in Eva's life too. She tries to talk to Kevin. But it was always meant to be a conversation of a single side. Kevin isn't one to do any of the talking.

Damien ("The Omen") can suck it. Kevin is quite possibly the new idealistic poster child for evil child movies. It's been a while since I've been so thoroughly repulsed with a character in a film, but everything about Kevin and what he does is simply revolting. And we aren't really given a good reason why. In most evil child movies, there is an explanation; adoption, son of the devil, stuff like that. Kevin was neither adopted, nor is he a Satanic spawn. He is simply pure evil. What's his motivation? Why does he do all that he does? There may be no other reason aside from that Kevin is a psychopath. We can guess this from the distressing and brilliant dinner scene as well as the somewhat iconic part where he fires his bow-and-arrow at his mother from outside the window.

A lot of the time, suspense and fear are associated with the horror genre exclusively; so "We Need to Talk About Kevin" has been wrongly categorized as a horror movie by some ignorant bastards. Indeed, a lot of those evil kid movies are horror pictures; but this one doesn't seek to classify itself as one. It is a thriller - a great one - that relies on a kind of tension and build-up that both could and could not be found in a horror movie. It creates a feeling of extreme anxiety and paranoia by taking things such as everyday activities and closing in on them for maximum effect. This, in my opinion, makes these things seem all the more disturbing than they initially appear. Most of the time though, Kevin himself can be thanked for the context. There's also an element of surrealism that is grounded in a harsh reality. Take for instance the ritualistic tomato sequence at the beginning of the film that shows up again later on; we question its meaning, but it nonetheless draws you in with its sublime beauty.

Lynne Ramsay is a relevant name to some and a mysterious one to others. I hope this film gets her name out. "We Need to Talk About Kevin" is the perfect feel-bad film. Most people who criticize it will essentially be praising it for what it sets out to do; disturb us and lock us in a room with these people for about two hours. The film itself may move locations, but we always feel "with" these people. It's never pleasant, never fun, and never boring. You can't look away from "Kevin" because the atmosphere alone puts your body in a sort of trance. Or perhaps you could refer to it as some sort of trap, because that would be pretty accurate too. Either way, you can't just shake it off too easily; and whether you actually like the film or not, you're gonna want to talk about it. This is powerful, powerful stuff.

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July 22, 2012
great movie! I need to do a full review on this one.
More 'We Need To Talk About Kevin' reviews
review by . June 03, 2013
A Mediocre Film
So this is another book to film adaptation. Considering I haven't read the book I cannot compare them (although I do plan on reading it eventually). The film was alright. I think Ezra Miller and Tilda Swinton were phenomenal in their roles but I think it seemed typical to cast Tilda as the role, it just seemed 'her' to me. It dragged on far too much, not really going anywhere. Being a teenage girl I definitely cried at the end, which I think was the best part.    All in …
review by . September 21, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
A stunning film
Eva (Tilda Swinton) is a wife and mother who has just experienced the last in a series of shattering incidents. In flashbacks, we see her happy life change forever with the birth of her unusual son. From that first day, she never feels any bond with him while he seems equally detached from and even hateful toward her.      This is an incredibly intense and heartbreaking film, dealing with the problem of alienation, the nature of familial love, and unspeakable violence. All of …
review by . December 14, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Are monsters born, or are they made? It’s obvious that Eva (Tilda Swinton) was ambivalent about her pregnancy, and by the time her son Kevin was born, she realized that having a child was never something she wanted. Throughout all stages of Kevin’s life, we see just how aware he is of his mother’s indifference, and how he uses it against her. As a baby, he cries incessantly. As a toddler, he develops slowly, not learning how to …
review by . January 20, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
'We Need To Talk About Kevin' 'Two Jews On Film' Agree & Disagree About This Powerful Drama (Video)
            By Joan Alperin Schwartz      What would you do if you suspected that your six year old son was an evil sociopath?  (Are there any other kind?) I know what I would do...Lock him away and throw away the key.       Unfortunately, this is not what Eva Khatchadourian (Tilda Swinton) in 'We Need To Talk About Kevin' does.  In fact,  Eva does absolutely nothing …
Quick Tip by . June 22, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Adapted from the novel by Lionel Shriver, “We Need to Talk about Kevin” is a horrifying look at a mother’s heartbreaking experience as her son goes on to commit a massacre at his school.      Are parents somewhat responsible when they see the warning signs of the makings of a homicidal behavior and yet fail to address such things? Are monsters born or are they made? This film engages the viewer into the depths of a mother’s guilt as well as her own descent …
review by . December 31, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Brilliant Conversation
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN Written by Lynne Ramsay and Rory Kinnear Directed by Lynne Ramsay Starring Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilley and Ezra Miller   Dr. Foulkes: He’s a floppy little boy, isn’t he? But there’s nothing wrong with him.   I know we’re supposed to talk about him but I have a very hard time talking about WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. (I meant to write this review three weeks ago and just couldn’t do it until now.) From the moment it opens, …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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Drama, Two Jews On Film, Tilda Swinton, John C Reilly, Ezra Miller, Bad Seed, Lynne Ramsey, High School Masacure, We Need To Talk About Kevin Movie Review, Mother And Son


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