The horrors that plague mankind as portrayed by the media or from word of mouth always have a way of leaving us jilted, tensed and even a little haunted by the details. We Need to Talk About Kevin will have you feeling similar emotions where I guarantee that you will be disturbed in more ways than one. The movie is a striking adaption of the book entitled the same by author Lionel Shriver, and has been directed by Lynn Ramsay. Worthy praise was bestowed upon Tilda Swinton (as Eva Katchadourian) for her inarguably well-enacted role as the mother of Kevin.
The movie opens with a scene of the La Tomatina festival in Buñol, where we first get a glimpse of Eva as part of the festivity. It progresses a few seconds later to show her lying on a couch in an unkempt living room as she awakens from sleep. The movie weaves in and out of flashbacks where Eva is seen as happy, free-spirited and in love with a man named Franklin (John C. Reilly) that she eventually marries. It is clear that Eva loves to globe-trot, being a successful travel writer who roams the world and is passionate about what she does for a living. Later, she then finds herself pregnant with a boy whom she names Kevin (Ezra Miller). Kevin shows the quintessential traits of a baby but as he gets older, things sharply swerve from one scene to the next.
Initially, Eva’s mothering ways are strained, cold and distant when Kevin is young. She even turns violent in one scene where she hurls him towards a wall. The hair-raising part is that Kevin doesn’t react to the excruciating pain of a fractured arm; it is as if he is immune to such an emotion. As the years progress, Eva shifts from unforgiving mother to a compassionate parent, making up for her questionable parenting ways while Kevin was growing up. It’s disturbing to see how Kevin switches on and off between both parents – one minute he is mocking his mother, the next he is beaming at his father when he returns home from work.
It is clear that Kevin has a vendetta against his mother, maybe as an act of revenge for not being ‘good enough’. It will leave you uneasy to witness this iniquitous child unleash such hatred towards his own mother. As a child, Kevin develops a liking for archery where his father gets him initially interested and gradually hooked. As the movie inches closer to its end, the flashbacks come to a screeching halt where Kevin is found responsible for a school massacre. He takes great pleasure in knowing that his mother would return home later that night to two dead bodies sprawled out in the backyard. The movie boils down to one thing – he was out to get his mother.
After two years of having to deal with the neighborhood blaming her for the crimes committed by her son, Eva finally finds herself asking him the one thing that solely matters at this point – why? The answer to this is in no way reassuring to Eva or the audience but it will surely have you in a state of disbelief.
The characters in the movie need a well-deserved round of applause for bringing their roles to life and having us inch closer to the screen in perverse anticipation. Needless to say, I’m sure the movie does the book justice in capturing the lurid reality of madness in a nutshell.