Tuesday Jun 05, 2012
Tuesday Jun 05, 2012
Tuesday Jun 05, 2012
We Need To Talk About Kevin
I don't have the slightest idea of how to review this movie. It's not like I could say I "enjoyed" it, because enjoyment has nothing to do with this film. I did find it moving and fascinating, but I can see where people wouldn't and I could not blame them.
On the surface this seems to be an impossible film to make. It's based on a book that is told through a series of letters from a woman to her husband about their son in the wake of an undisclosed tragedy. Yes, this device has been used and adapted before (The Color Purple), but in this case there is such a crippling emotional weight attached to it that it's a difficult narrative to get across.
Without spoiling anything it's the story of Eva Khatchadourian, a celebrated travel writer who has her adventurous life interrupted by the arrival of her son Kevin. All through Kevin's life there is an odd disconnect between mother and child. From the beginning it seems as if the boy just doesn't like his mother. As a baby he screeches whenever she holds him. As a toddler he refuses to listen, play with, or otherwise engage her. As he grows older his attitude towards her grows in hostility. From vandalizing her home office to using abusive language, this boy doesn't seem to have any love at all for his mother.
Not that he is alone. Eva doesn't really seem to like Kevin that much either. She seems to blame him for her losing the life she loved so much. Instead of traveling the world she gets to hear the screams of a baby that seems to repel at her touch. Instead of living in New York city she is trapped in a sterile suburban community with nobody to talk to but a son who actively dislikes her. There are instances of abuse, both physical and verbal, from the mother to her son. It all leads to an unimaginable tragedy that leaves Eva a completely broken woman, as it would appear to have been Kevin's plan all along.
Everything about this movie is a downer. Not that that's a bad thing, but as a viewer you need to know going in that this is not a movie where good things happen.
That being said, everything about the film itself is brilliant.
Not only is the subject matter challenging, but the manner the film is made is challenging as well. It is a very non-linear story, jumping from present day Eva, living alone and struggling with life in a world that doesn't seem to want her, to Kevin's childhood. All throughout you get hints at the tragedy and hints at the problems with Kevin, but it's never explicit. It's evident that he is a sociopath (in this case a true sociopath, which is a disregard for the feelings of others and a lack of empathy and remorse), but it's never stated. Eva obviously has some post partum depression that is never dealt with, but again it gets swept under the rug. In this way it is one of the most challenging movies I've ever seen. It's difficult subject matter, directed in a nonlinear fashion, with characters who don't spell out what they are feeling. Director Lynne Ramsay absolutely crushes it with this movie. But, as good a film as it is, it is also one that I can see people not liking, and I cannot fault anyone for that.
Tilda Swinton, who I have always enjoyed but have never been in the "she is so amazing" camp with, gives an incredible performance. She makes Eva a very real person. You understand her frustration and her pain and her isolation, but at the same time you see her flaws.
John C. Reilly does another solid dramatic turn as well. He is the only member of the family that Kevin appears to care for or connect with and he really conveys a man who is torn between his wife and his child. He never sees the coldness that Eva sees, all he knows is that his wife seems to dislike their child and he doesn't know what to do about it.
This may not be the movie for you, but if you like directors that take chances both in storytelling and with character development than "We Need To Talk About Kevin," will most definitely do it for you.