Following my recently discovered passionate love for Tilda Swinton (after seeing A Bigger Splash), last week I decided to watch one of the films that was on top of my bucket list, We Need to Talk Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011).
I was familiar with it due to my obsession for awards show and the fact that despite being up for all the other awards, Tilda Swinton “lost” her Academy Awards nomination to Rooney Mara (for her performance in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). But, to be honest, I wasn’t too familiar with the film’s plot, except for the brief logline on Netflix (if you are interested in the film, you can find it on Netflix US, and probably in other countries). I have to admit, I am glad I didn’t know much about the film, and, to make sure I do not spoil it for you, at least not too much, I will copy the brief synopsis from Netflix: When her 15-year-old son’s cruel streak erupts into violence, his mother wonders how much blame she deserves for his actions.
The main conflict of the film revolves around the question, what can you do when your child hates you? Perhaps it is a simplistic way to understand the film, but at least that is the way that I see it. What can you do when you are scared of your child and when he is making your life miserable on purpose? There is simply no way out, this is not like an unhappy marriage, from which you could eventually escape, your child will always be your child, no matter what, and their decisions will influence your life, want it or not. We Need to Talk About Kevin pushes this idea to the limit when the main character’s peace cannot even be reached in death, since, as she coldly admits, she will go to hell for her son’s actions. I could do an in-depth analysis of the heroine (Eva)’s prison from which there is no escape, but then again I would spoil the film for you, as I always do.
As always, my favorite element of the film is Tilda Swinton, and I do not say this because I am completely biased, but because she carries the whole weight of the film on her shoulders and pulls of what I believe is the most difficult role of her life. After seeing her performance in We Need to Talk About Kevin I can’t understand how she did not earn that well-deserved Oscar nomination. Yes, 2012 sure was a very competitive year (Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Glenn Close…), but my question is, was Michelle William’s Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn better than Tilda Swinton’s Eva? I doubt it. But then again, Harvey Weinstein is known as one of the best lobbyists in Hollywood. Any other year Swinton would have won an Academy Award for this performance, since it is once again a tour de force that makes the world sit and listen.
The screenplay is also perfectly constructed, with a very slow pace and flashbacks that gradually reveal the whole truth. In most cases, this kind of structure isn’t totally effective because of the whole timing of the film: the flashbacks either arrive too early or too late, resulting in a weak climax. This is not the case.
As for the visual style, the film exploits the symbolism of red and the contrast between the bright past and the terrifying present, that eventually merge in the climax. Despite being based on a novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin represents the meaning of film itself as a visual representation: at the end of the day, an image is worth a thousand words, and cinema consists of 24 images per second (and sometimes more).
I have personally loved the film, although, if I had to criticize it, my only complain would be that it creates a feeling of uneasiness and psychological terror for which I was not prepared. I would totally recommend you to watch it, just as long as you are willing to stand two hours of a movie that literally depicts hell, in the best sense of the word. We Need to Talk About Kevin is so terrifying you will not be able to take your eyes off the screen.