Movie #44: We Need To Talk About Kevin

Wow. I literally don’t think I’ve hated watching any movie so much as this one. Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers had been the defending champ, but Mickey and Mallory have now lost to Kevin and Eva. To be clear, it was not the subject matter that turned me off. In fact, I found a movie about the growth of a young boy into a teenage mass murderer to be an intriguing idea. I think that people (including movie makers) too easily demonize killers until they are so different from the rest of us that everything they do seems to be “pure evil” which we cannot relate to. I was hoping for a peek into Kevin’s troubled mind. Instead, We Need To Talk About Kevin focuses much more on Kevin’s mother, Eva (played by Narnia‘s White Witch, Tilda Swinton). From the casting and the advertisements, I kind of expected that; but I also expected more depth to the interactions between mother and son. Part of the problem was that Kevin was troublesome virtually since birth (as an infant, he screamed non-stop). Even as a child he willfully did vulgar, malicious things to his mother, and played innocent when his father got home. Despite her excellent acting skills, I’ve never been a fan of Swinton’s. She often plays unlovable roles, and her physical appearance is a bit off-putting. In this movie, she appeared gaunt, depressed, pale with lifeless eyes and taut smile. I’m sure that’s what she was going for, but I still don’t enjoy watching her. It really didn’t help that her character seemed so weak. She was afraid of her own child, unsupported by her husband, and yet powerless to change anything. I don’t know if the movie (or the writer of the original book on which this movie was based) meant for Eva’s character to represent the psychology of the majority of mothers of killers. While I was judging her for continuing in such a horrible situation, it was equally obvious in this movie that she really could not escape. That point is illustrated even more strongly by the second part of the movie, which is the inter-cut scenes of Eva’s life after the tragedy. It’s made into a lot more than a flashback. In fact, the movie repeatedly slips from one time period to the other with very little warning (I tried to use Eva’s hair style as my touchstone). Another part of the difficulty of this movie is the tension that comes from thinking that each scene of an encounter between Eva and Kevin is just going to get progressively worse as the movie builds up to the tragic event. Every little cue got me thinking, “Oh, Kevin’s going to do this horrible thing or that horrible thing”. Sadly it usually happened. On the other side, we watch Eva try to get a job and make a life for herself, but she encounters many people who hate her because of what Kevin did and that situation is psychologically terrible for Eva. Again, it’s because Swinton, and Ezra Miller (who plays teenager Kevin) give such convincing performances that I hate watching them even more. One more aspect that made me dislike this movie was the soundtrack. Between the discordant Chinese violin that strums at crucial and tense moments, and the songs with tragic lyrics sung by a pained-sounding singer, the soundtrack fit right into this movie that I wanted to shut off before I even got half-way (if I had seen this in the cinema I probably would have left the show). By the end, Eva looked like she might have been able to move on, but the ending was unclear. I don’t know if screenwriter-director Lynn Ramsay intended this movie to be frustrating or uncomfortable in order to prove a point, but if it was, Ms. Ramsay, we need to talk (1 out of 5)

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