Saturday, July 14, 2012

We Need to Talk About Kevin. A-

We Need to Talk About Kevin has the ingredients of a horror film, the look and tone of an auteur in top form, and the performance of a master actress-the incomparable Tilda Swinton. Let me quickly run through those three things in more detail. The plot, while arguably an important social issue, is essentially a child-from-hell set-up. As a kid Kevin displays startling behavior. Sometimes he's a typical little brat, but more often he's just a real monster, and it only gets worse as he grows up. Maturing into a teenager, he gets smarter, but whatever type of genius he has, it seems to be warped by that germ in his brain that affects his actions. One could say that as Kevin gets smarter, he becomes more dangerous. Kevin is a heavily defiant of social standards, and as the movie goes on his rebellion increases to the point of true, satanic evil. Swinton is the mom, and John C. Reilly is the dad who, in typical horror movie fashion, is either in a state of oblivion or optimism that his son will outgrow his issues. But Lynne Ramsay, working from a the novel by Lionel Shriver, doesn't direct the film like a horror movie. She's more interested in the psychological impact Kevin has on Swinton's Eva. The scenes that take place early on in Kevin's life show Eva desperate to earn her son's affection, yet concerned and angry that the only time he actually treats her as a mom is when he gets sick. By the time Kevin's in his teens, her anger and desperation has subsided. Eva is calmly hanging on for dear life, as seen in the devastating scene in which she takes Kevin put-put golfing and then to dinner. Throughout Kevin's life there is a growing suspicion we see develop in Eva's expression that her son is the product of her own gene pool with a dose of psychotic mania no one can account for. We Need to Talk About Kevin also includes scenes in the present, when Eva is living alone, working a depressing office job, and visiting Kevin in prison (for reasons we don't understand until the end of the film). These scenes are deflated of any energy, as Eva lives in a state of reserved melancholy and distances herself from any real emotions. Throughout the entire film Ramsay directs with plenty of flair, making the pretend scares of halloween seem pretty legit, using the color red like an addict, and placing American songs in what is oddly a very un-American film. I bought pretty much everything she was doing simply because it fit well in this particular story.

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