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STUDIO: Oscilloscope Laboratories
RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes
• Behind the Scenes
• Bonus footage from the “La Tomatina” festival in Spain
• Discussion with Tilda Swinton from the Telluride Film Festival
• Interview with Lionel Shriver, author of the source novel
• Liner note essay from psychoanalyst Mark Stafford
A jarring psychological thriller that shoots an arrow through the nature vs. nurture debate.
Directed by Lynne Ramsay, written by Ramsay and Rory Stewart Kinnear from the novel by Lionel Shriver, starring Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, and Ezra Miller.
Eva’s maternal instincts are all jacked up as her son Kevin grows from creepy toddler into a black-hearted teen archer.
Little kids have always been wicked creepy and teenagers nowadays scare the hell out of me. They don’t give a fuck, is what it comes down to. I see a group of teens, I cross the street and receive my verbal lashing from a safe distance. But, as the expression goes, it’s always the quiet ones you have to watch out for. Especially quiet ones who walk around with a bow and arrow.
We Need to Talk About Kevin is hands-down one of the scariest films of the past few years and a grand achievement for director Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar). The film addresses the difficult subjects of teen violence and the lack of a maternal instinct while asking the question: What if someone is just born wicked? The film is carried on the shoulders of Tilda Swinton, who plays Kevin’s mother, Evam which is no surprise. The woman has always been ridiculously talented. Her performance is jarring and we’re given front row seats to Eva’s evolution from begrudging mother to a woman drowning in guilt and sorrow.
Before becoming pregnant with Kevin (played in his teen years by cutie-pie Ezra Miller), Eva was a world-traveler – she even has an extensive map collection to prove it. She meets and falls in love with a photographer named Franklin (John C. Reilly). After a night of unprotected passion, Eva becomes pregnant. While she suffers from prenatal depression, Franklin is thrilled about the prospect of starting a family. Following the birth of Kevin, Eva quickly suspects that this newborn baby seems to have it in for her – always crying hysterically until Franklin comes home. As Kevin becomes a toddler, Eva thinks he’s suffering from developmental issues. The doctor explains to her that her kid is in perfect health. Still, Eva can’t shrug off the uneasiness Kevin gives her and it only gets worse as he becomes an archery-enthusiast teenager.
The story is told in non-linear form – it flashes back and forth through time every couple of minutes – and an easy signifier of past or present is Eva’s hair length. Through the series of vignettes we see Eva’s struggle to connect with Kevin and to act on all of the warning signs he gives off. In the present, we see what it’s like to live as a parent whose child has committed violence. The entire movie is told through her perspective, and despite one brief glimpse inside his head, Kevin remains a mystery throughout. He’s a bad seed without a cause.
Since the film is shown through Eva’s perspective, sometimes it seems that Kevin’s evilness is inflated from her repressed hatred of him. Same with Franklin, who in Kevin’s formative years is depicted as a caricature of a loving father. He’s like a big goofy doughman dad, but that could just be how grumpy face Eva makes him look.
The film was partially shot in Cinemascope, which is usually reserved for westerns and other films featuring epic showdowns. Using it to film two parents arguing gives Kevin a war-like feel and adds great weight to the rift between Eva and Franklin. Other scenes use close-ups to make simple things seem ominous – Kevin playing with his food, for instance. Ramsay, whose background is as a still photographer, knows what the hell she’s doing with a camera. You can see that in each and every shot in Kevin.
Ramsay never gives the audience any easy answers to the nature vs. nurture debate. Who’s to blame when a child commits horrifying violence? Kevin’s as black-hearted as they come – a textbook sociopath from his bedroom to his clothes. But Eva’s hatred of him from early on may be at fault here too. Who’s to say? The idea that a kid is born evil makes people uncomfortable so no one wants to blame the kid. It all falls on Eva in this situation. She has to live with what her spawn has done and it’s a harrowing thing to watch.
Oscilloscope Laboratories has put together a fantastic package for We Need to Talk About Kevin. The Blu-ray/DVD combo pack comes with a fold-out sleeve that has some great crayon illustrations and a super creepy Swinton/Miller face-off photo.
BEHIND THE SCENES: Series of genuinely insightful interviews with cast and crew who discuss the making of Kevin. Lynne Ramsay and her DP talk about their shooting decisions, color choices, and various other technical aspects of the shoot. Swinton, Miller, and Reilly chime in on the nature vs. nurture debate. Perhaps most interestingly, they explain how Kevin is a purely American story.
BONUS FOOTAGE FROM THE “LA TOMATINA” FESTIVAL IN SPAIN: About four minutes of soundless footage shot at the “La Tomatina” Festival with Swinton in pigtails.
DISCUSSION WITH TILDA SWINTON FROM THE TELLURIDE FILM FESTIVAL: This is a really great Q&A with Swinton in which she discusses her experience making major Hollywood films vs. indies and loads of other stuff. She gives a fantastic interview and just seems like a really goddamn sincere person, which I hear is rare in tall women.
INTERVIEW WITH LIONEL SHRIVER: Brief but sweet interview with Lionel Shriver, who wrote the film’s source book. She discusses her inspiration for writing the novel and her involvement with Ramsay during the script writing process.
ESSAY FROM PSYCHOANALYST MARK STAFFORD: Stafford discusses the psychology of evil and offers some nice film criticism of his own.
Rating: Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Out of a Possible 5 Stars