We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)

We Need to Talk About Kevin
Mark Kermode’s ‘Film of the Year’ so far (and with a little over two months left, a good contender for his final award), so a lot to live up to.

It did, in spades. From the moment Eva (Tilda Swinton) gives birth to Kevin, the child sets out, whether by accident or design, to destroy her, like some incubus version of the son “not even a mother could love”. What makes it worse for Eva is that Kevin reserves all his bile for her, acting normally and affectionately in front of his father (John C Reilly). When Eva has a second child, with whom she has a normal loving relationship, Kevin has another reason to hate his mother and a new weapon to use against her.

Ramsay has another career as a photographic artist and it shows in some of the most impressive visuals I’ve seen. These are paired with a wonderfully involved and confident fractured narrative, for which I have a liking anyway, to give a truly involving story. The artistry here is not self-indulgent but expertly applied.

Ezra Miller, as the last of four young actors playing Kevin, is smooth and reptilian but hardly any more disturbing than the younger versions. The film belongs to Swinton, though. Looking increasingly drawn and haggard as Kevin wears her down, she eventually looks more wasted than anyone I’ve ever seen in film, bar tramps and addicts. Only her extraordinarily expressive eyes continue to show emotion.

Kevin is clearly psychopathic but Eva can’t help but wonder, as almost everyone demonises her for the atrocity he commits (not a spoiler – this is clear early on, and from every trailer for the film), whether she really is responsible -and even those who don’t blame her can’t help but increase her feelings of guilt.

With a psychopath in my family, though not in Kevin’s league, it reminds me of my mother’s concerns that “she’d done something wrong”. A really extraordinary film.

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