Sunday, 20 November 2011

Film #66 We Need to Talk about Kevin

A tough, tough movie this, as you might expect from an adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s epistolary novel about the mother of a child who commits a Columbine-esque school massacre. It is immaculately played, of course: we cinephiles all know about Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly, but the children playing the titular Kevin are revelatory in their devilish manipulation. The story itself is grim, though the peppering of black humour throughout helps us through and there is cleverly just enough wiggle-room left in the plot for the audience to be able to question the sequence of events as it has been presented to us.

As a director’s piece, Lynne Ramsay really has stamped her identity on the film and while it does indeed look great, it is also sonically interesting (beyond the excellent Jonny Greenwood score): scenes tend to be cued aurally and Ramsay has an unusually elevated sense of film as more than just a visual medium. Like Speilberg at his best, she realises that the audience responds better to horror unseen or implied – the horrific event around which the whole film turns is never seen, though the immediate aftermath is conveyed in small parts.

Sometimes, however, there’s a little too much of the filmmaker’s artifice present. The multiple flashbacks are confusing (in any given five minutes we jump between as many as five different settings). And this is not a film for everyone – don’t go expecting entertainment; this a profound and excellent film, but it is unsettling and disturbing in ways that, say, Eli Roth could not even conceive.

Ultimately this is a subtly crafted and thought-provoking film, making the best of its somewhat harrowing source material. Enjoyable is perhaps not the word to describe ...Kevin, but it is undoubtedly a film of much worth, played superbly and with a greater sense of film-as-art than 99% of other mainstream releases this year



  1. Great review. I've heard of the constant praise for this one, and intend to see it before the year is over.