WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. (2011) DIRECTED BY LYNNE RAMSAY. BASED ON THE 2003 BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY LIONEL SHRIVER.
STARRING TILDA SWINTON, JOHN C. REILLY AND EZRA MILLER.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This is the best film I’ve seen in ages, grim though its subject is. I hardly dared to breathe during it, it was so good at ramping up the tension over and over again. Tilda Swinton plays Eva Khatchadourian (what a great name!), the lead character and the mom in the story, which is seen from her perspective.
We see her in the ‘Before’ times and the ‘After’ times, before the bad thing happened and after the bad thing happened. Her hair is longer in the ‘After’ times, which helps us differentiate between the two separate time frames.
In the ‘Before’ times, Eva lives with her husband, Franklin, a straight role for John C. Reilly, in their fabulous suburban house. She’s a former travel writer and now a stay-at-home mom. They have two children, Kevin and his much younger sister, Celie.
We see right from the start that Kevin is a ‘problem’ child. He develops later than other children. He poops himself deliberately to annoy his mother, long after he should have cottoned on to toilet training. He appears to hate his mother and does things on purpose to antagonise her and make her life miserable and much, much harder than it needs to be.
Kevin only ever presents as a sweet little angel to his dad, Franklin, who in turn thinks Eva is exaggerating and making a fuss over nothing. This puts a huge amount of stress on the marriage, and Eva feels more and more isolated as she parents Kevin alone with no help from Franklin.
He’s the one who comes home at the end of the day when the kids are in bed and gets to kiss them goodnight but nothing else. The kids love him because he’s the king of the big gesture, the big present, while poor Mom is the villain who makes them do their homework, eat their greens and clean their teeth.
Kevin grows into a savagely sarcastic, sneaky, destructive and head-wrecking monster by his teenage years, though his dad, from whom he could have used some much needed discipline and tough love, is still determinedly wearing those Kevin-blinkers.
Who puts the family guinea pig, Mr. Snuffles, into the garbage disposal system? Who blinds little Celie in one eye, by purposely leaving the bleach bottles out unattended? Dad refuses to believe that it’s Kevin who’s responsible.
He thinks his wife has it in for Kevin and he talks about a separation, which devastates poor Eva. But what can she do? She’s spent Kevin’s whole life trying to convince her husband that there’s Something Very Wrong with Kevin, but maybe she hasn’t been forceful enough. Maybe he hasn’t been hearing her.
But by the time she tells Franklin that they need to sit down and have a proper chat, Kevin has done the Awful Thing that we, the viewer, could see coming a mile off, but that shocks his parents to their core, even his dad, who bought him the crossbow and arrows and taught him to shoot them in the first place. It’s every parent’s nightmare, especially these days when it seems to happen so frequently, but imagine being on the other side of it as Eva now finds herself…
Tilda Swinton is truly magnificent as Eva, a mother who tries her very, very best with a difficult child and whom everyone blames when the child grows up and does the most disgusting, despicable thing any human being can do to another. I’m much more inclined to blame the father here, who refused to see that his precious son was a psychopath in the making.
Ezra Miller, the actor who portrays the teenage Kevin, plays him brilliantly. He even looks evil, strangely enough, as if he might just genuinely be the son of Satan. But the disturbing thing is that the real-life Ezra Miller is on the run from the police at the moment for offences that might get him cancelled in Hollywood if they’re found to be true. It’s not looking good for Ezra Miller just now.
There really needs to be a conversation- in America, yes, but in other places too, places like Ireland- about why the Thing that Kevin Does in the Film keeps on happening over and over again. Why does it keep happening?
It’s not just about the easy availability of guns (or, in this case, a crossbow and arrows) and inadequate school security, is it? Is it about copycatting? One asshole does it so another asshole must do the same thing?
What is it about these children, because some of them are just that, children, that makes them do it? What is it about their upbringing? Is it a cry for attention? Kevin gets plenty of attention, at least from his mum.
And his behaviour and track record of hurting animals and small children should have raised a big red flag with his parents, and it did, but, sadly, with only one of them. The other was in deep, deep denial…
Remember the scene where Kevin bows theatrically to an empty auditorium? Does he think he’ll get kudos for what he does? Awards, plaudits, a medal? Surely he understands that he’ll be hated for the actions he chooses to commit?
Even in prison, doesn’t he realise that he’ll barely make it above the paedophiles in the pecking order, if he’s lucky? Some of the most dangerous criminals you could mention might look askance at someone who hurts children.
It’s a brilliant film, anyway. And it raises important questions that parents, kids and teachers should all discuss together. Even if we believe, as I’ve been told, that ‘it couldn’t happen here,’ I still think we need to talk about it.
We may not like the idea of living in fear, but there are precautions we could and maybe should take to guard against such things happening anywhere. As for Kevin, the original ‘bad seed,’ let’s hope they throw away the key…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: