Based on the critically acclaimed book by Lionel Shriver, We Need To Talk About Kevin certainly isn’t a walk in the park but give it the chance to develop and the film soon blossoms into a masterful and involving feature.
Focusing on the relationship between a mother (Swinton) and her son (Miller, Newell, Duer) as she recaps his life, leading up to a tragedy at his hands in the modern day, We Need To Talk About Kevin takes on a difficult story and tells it in a ways that produces absorbing, if not loveable, characters.
Harbouring a very unforgiving tone, Lynne Ramsey’s third feature is a tough watch, but follows through on a subject when it could so easily have backed down, an impressively daring and confident work of the director.
Despite chopping back and forth, the narrative never feels disjointed and you certainly shouldn’t get lost along the way. The mother is always the sticking point on the timeline, so it’s easy to follow in that regard, subtly teasing snippets of the fictional high school massacre along the way.
It’s hugely impressive that with no redemption in sight, you’ll still remain glued to the screen until the bitter end, drawing great sympathy for the mother as she fails to ever develop a real bond with her son. The three Kevins from toddler to teen, and of course, Tilda Swinton, give the film an utter believability when over-the-top performances could have so easily been its undoing. Swinton’s Eva is wonderfully ground down by Kevin in his early years, while post-tragedy, she just about manages to hold it together in the face or a torrent of ill will from the public. John C. Reilly struggles to give any real weight to the father figure, but this was always going to be about the mother-son relationship.
Do I have an urge to ever really think about, or see, the film again? Probably not, but then some great films are like that, and with the awards season just around the corner, and We Need To Talk About Kevin a near shoe-in for nominations, I might not have a choice.