Movie Review: “We Need to Talk About Kevin”
- Jan. 25, 2012
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What’s it like to be the mother of a killer? The nature vs. nurture debate sprouts horns and a tail in Lynne Ramsay’s “We Need To Talk About Kevin,” a singularly disquieting highbrow horror film that explores the taboo subject of maternal apathy with nightmare logic, gut-wrenching performances and dialogue sharp enough to draw blood.
Tilda Swinton stars as Eva, a globetrotting travel writer who finds her free spirit tethered by an unplanned pregnancy. Reluctant to settle down with her amicable husband Franklin (John C. Reilly), Eva is implicitly resentful of Kevin from the moment of his birth. Yet the child, who gradually comes to resemble Swinton more and more, displays no neediness, only a cold, studied indifference and a love of cruel games and tacit manipulation. He is clearly a monster in the making, but of whose making? The film, which unfolds in a fog of memory months after Kevin has committed his final atrocity, wisely leaves that mystery in the hands of the viewer.
Swinton gives the performance of 2011 as the haggard, haunted Eva. With her hair dyed black and her alabaster alien features muted by imagined years of self-loathing, the Scottish actress becomes the aching embodiment of a profoundly broken woman. Additional credit must be given to Ezra Miller, who plays the adolescent Kevin as a smirking, seething cauldron of contempt, and Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, whose score infuses every scene with creeping, implacable dread.
Simply put, seek out “Kevin” as soon as possible and discover how every parent’s worst nightmare can become a movie lover’s dream come true. From the surreal opening reverie to the nihilistic fury of its climax, this is a film designed to leave scars. It is also one of the past year’s few genuine masterpieces. Just leave the expectant mothers at home.