Based upon the best selling novel by Lionel Shriver We Need To Talk About Kevin follows Eva (a powerhouse performance from Tilda Swinton) as she deals with the fact that her son, the eponymous Kevin, is responsible for a High School massacre.
I read the book over a year ago and I was very intrigued to see how the page would become the screen. The book is written as a series of letters which gives it a superb narrative gimmick to gradually reveal the extent of Kevin’s actions and the affects on Eva and the rest of the family. Having read an interview with Tilda Swinton, I had already seen that they had discarded trying to present the letters on screen, so just how would writer/director Lynne Ramsay handle it?
Eva is presented as almost otherworldly: she exists in a dreamlike state of shock, detached to a degree, but heavily affected, by all around her. As though she stands in the eye of a storm. Where the book utilises letters to get inside Eva’s head, the film uses flashbacks, a disjointed chronological narrative and a magnificent performance from Swinton to bring the viewer into her world.
Swinton’s performance is aided by good supporting work from John C Reilly as her hapless husband and the young actors that play Kevin. Both Jasper Newell (Kevin in childhood) and Ezra Miller exude utter contempt in a role that could so easily become a pantomime villain.
The flashbacks to young Kevin’s formative years contain more humour than I remember in the book to the point where they almost seem like an extreme Dennis the Menace. There is also some humour when Kevin becomes an adolescent, but that soon gives way to his cold-blooded side.
Much emphasis is also made on Eva and Kevin’s similarities: they both seem detached from the real world and see day to day life and happiness as mundane. It is perhaps these similarities that make Eva’s life such a living hell as she understands only too well that the apple has not fallen far from the tree.
I think it certainly helped me to have read the book first, but I don’t believe it is a pre-requisite for enjoying it.
My Rating: 4/5