Monday, 14 November 2011

We Need to Talk About Kevin

2011, 15, Directed by Lynne Ramsay
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, John C. Reilly, Sioban Fallon

 Her first feature film since 2002's Morvern Callar, director Lynne Ramsay need not make another film to prove her worth; We Need To Talk About Kevin does so in an effortless manner that countless filmmaker's strive to master throughout embittered careers.  Let it be said, this is an uneasy watch. Adapted from Lionel Shriver's 2003 bestseller, the film centres on Eva Katchadourian, a mother attempting to deal with the anguish and backlash following a traumatic act committed by her son, Kevin. Tilda Swinton plays Eva and it is near impossible to imagine anybody else tackling such a role; flitting back to her days before Kevin arrived, through to his birth and her inability to conect with her son even as a toddler, Swinton connects instead with the watchful audience, providing a true insight into what it is to be this woman pushed to the edge by motherhood (just try and prevent your heart from sinking when, in a rare moment of affection, Kevin snuggles up with his mother whilst she reads him a bedtime story, causing Eva to have a fist-in-the-air moment). Her every action evokes an emotive response; you yearn to acquire the ability to reach into the screen, simply to reassuringly pat her on the back. In one word, Swinton is a knockout - quite possibly the performance of the year.

John C. Reilly as the ignorant father who sees Kevin as the inocent angel he definitely isn't, does quite a bit with not a lot. As for Kevin himself, he is a malevolent on-screen force; an out-and-out pure villainous creation - Ezra Miller plays the part so perfectly that he is in danger of becoming typecast for a long time to come.

The film is non-linear but somehow does not feel so due to a fathomable format that Ramsay adopts. There appear to be narrative lapses that are stitched together come the film's climax, and after glimpsing Eva's character before and then after the event that the film is moulded around, you piece the puzzle together, formulating debatable ideas in the process. Is it entirely her fault? Definitely not. Is she blameless? Probably not. Either way, this is one film that will have you talking all the way home. Although the difference in timeframe is present, you never once feel isolated in the plot - all you know is that something truly terrible occured. It is to Ramsay's credit that you wait so patiently to find out what. In lesser hands, the feature would have used this potentially gory event as a harrowing set-piece, but here, emphasis is placed on the interaction between mother and son, followed by mother's way of dealing with a situation she should never have had to deal with. Fearfully doing her weekly shop; unable to smile in the street at the risk of passers-by spotting her... Swinton plays it so it could be somebody down the stree, grounding the film with a sense of overwhelming realism. 

Barely any blood is spilt on screen. Ramsay knows the imagination is enough; so much so that when visceral images are shown, the shock and awe are enhanced. Pair this with a highlight on innocent imagery (Eva's house being repeatedly pelted with red paint), paired with the claustrophoic probing camerawork refusing to release the grip around Eva, and the sense of dread is unpalpable. This is truly remarkable filmmaking, aided by a talented visionary and performer at the top of their game. If there's one thing to talk about, it is most certainly We Need to Talk About Kevin.