Year: 2011
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Writers: Lynne Ramsay, Rory Kinnear,
based on Lionel Shriver’s novel We Need To Talk About Kevin
Region of Origin: UK
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: R
35mm, Color, 112 mins

Synopsis: The mother of a teenage boy who committed a terrible crime tries to deal with her grief – and feelings of responsibility for her child’s actions. (Source)

We Need To Talk About Kevin is hands down one of the most heartbreaking and intelligently filmed movies I’ve seen all year. I knew to expect a flawless performance from Tilda Swinton, but I’d never seen anything from writer/director Lynne Ramsay before. To say I was astonished by the movie’s truly haunting portrait of a woman destroyed and displaced by tragedy is putting it lightly. Ramsey’s adaptation is the work of an auteur, one who carries the sharpest tools in the shed and isn’t afraid to use them to pierce the deepest part of your soul.

The movie is centered around Eva’s (Tilda Swinton) unfolding memories prior to and after a hugely horrific event enacted by her son Kevin (Ezra Miller). It takes the entire movie for all the pieces to finally fit, but what drives the journey is the juxtaposition between the past and present. In the past, Eva was a famous travel writer striving to make her family work, and in the present she’s a shell of a person, berated by strangers, and barely scraping by with a tiny travel agency job. She spends her free time aguishly scrubbing red paint off of her decrepit home, the victim of yet another cruel act. While the two timelines look aesthetically different, they both share the same psychological underpinnings, illustrating a woman who despite ironically writing about life’s cultural wonders is never able to truly accept the miracles she herself has been given. It should also be known that the movie isn’t about trying to answer all of the questions it raises, but rather probes the confusion and torment of its protagonist in relation to her son (who is basically her wicked inverse). The two are yet another tragic juxtaposition, showing the parallels between living the lives they seemingly didn’t want. They both have their own way of coping, culminating in tragic and profound consequences for both.

Despite the movie’s tough and personal subject matter, what elevates it above a generic thriller/drama is its masterful way of capturing the subjective nature of Eva’s memories and perspective. It’s obvious to say that movies are sight and sound, both working cohesively, but Ramsay’s tale is really the best cohesion of the two that I’ve seen in a long time, and that’s really the highest compliment I can give the movie. It’s become commonplace to just rely on an actor’s performance in movies like this for a really “grounded” experience, but Kevin shapes its environment, tone, music and editing to fit its central themes of waning willpower, confusion and guilt. All of which put you directly into the headspace of its protagonist so you feel and ache in the same way. The cinematography of Seamus McGarvey is masterful, evoking both impressionistic states of mind while being forcefully precise in its narrative focus, and the use of the color red is the most jarring and nauseating appropriation I’ve seen of late. From an editing standpoint, each scene was filled with so much underlying tension and realistic dread that I felt a bit queasy, especially towards the movie’s last act.

We Need To Talk About Kevin is definitely not for everyone. It’s dark, depressing and extremely tragic, but it’s also meticulously filmed and perfectly acted (add another feather in Tilda Sinwton’s cap). It’s a tragic story about life’s enigmatic qualities, making you question the reason of it all. It deftly illustrates how close we can be to someone on the outside, all while being separate and empty on the inside. While it doesn’t give really give you any answers, it works wonders in showing you the fragility of it all, pointing you in the right direction for some pretty potent discussion, just like the title suggests.

Crome Rating: 4.5/5