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We Need to Talk About Kevin

Year: 2011
Studio: BBC Films
Director: Lynne Ramsey
Writer: Lynne Ramsay/Rory Stewart Kinnear/Lionel Shriver
Cast: Tilda Swinton, John C Reilly, Ezra Miller

Kevin has done something terrible – that much is obvious from the opening scenes of the movie when we find that his mother Eva (Tilda Swinton) has become a hated outcast in her hometown, waking up to find someone has splashed red paint (obviously meant to symbolise the blood of the horrific act) all over the front of her house.

Like Gus Van Sant's Elephant, you might have heard what Kevin's terrible act is, but writer/director Lynne Ramsey (from a script based on Lionel Shriver's book) plays with a very disconnected chronological sequence to keep it to the very end, instead showing us the genesis and fallout.

But right up until then it's still very uncomfortable to watch. It deals with what must be one of the most confronting and sacrilegious of subject matters (albeit one many people feel despite their guilt and loneliness about it), when a parent doesn't love her child.

After jumping back and forth in time we learn that Eva's early relationship to Franklin (John C Reilly) was carefree and romantic, but when they settled down to have kids, things changed. Their first born, Kevin, seems to harbour some quiet malevolence bordering on evil, along with an outright hatred of his mother despite her best efforts to engage and love him.

Eva's interaction with Kevin was actually the one part of the movie I responded to the least. Maybe my own mother was too much of a disciplinarian or I was too frightened of crossing her but Eva lets Kevin get away with way too much without slapping him across the face. Maybe part of Ramsey's intent is to make you wonder if the treatment Eva gets after the tragedy is deserved because she should have been harder on her son when he was such an obstinate little shit.

The film is presented in a workaday style without too much flourish or embellishment and it doesn't need it. It's about the story, and the story is the kind of thing we need more of – stuff that comes from outside the narrow pro-family viewpoint of Hollywood and puts you on the spot.

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