Film Review: We Need To Talk About Kevin

we-need-to-talk-about-kevin-movie-poster-03When Eva (Tilda Swinton) fails to bond with her firstborn child Kevin (Ezra Miller), the relationship between the two becomes more and more volatile over time. As Kevin grows up he learns how to push Eva’s buttons and she has a hard time dealing with his cold demeanor and vicious actions. However, when Kevin does something beyond anyone’s worst nightmares, it brings Eva’s life crashing down around her.

I’m going to start this review my spoiling It’s a Wonderful Life. You know at the end when the whole town give George money and bail him out and everyone’s super happy because they all pull together and you get type 2 diabetes because it’s so sweet? Yeah, well We Need to Talk About Kevin is the polar opposite of that. There are no smiles here, no jokes; it’s a film with a bleak outlook that asks some difficult questions of its audience and refuses to let but the smallest glimmer of light escape from its dark and twisted core. But it’s brilliant.

We see Eva in the present day, alone, with the entire town gunning for her because of some monstrous event that’s occurred. We’re then shown, through a series of flashbacks, what it is that has cause such a reaction amongst everyone, and it’s in these flashbacks that we get the real meat of the story. It invokes myriad reactions and emotions and throws up endless questions with no easy answers. Kevin is clearly a troubled individual, but why is he like that? Was he born evil? Did Eva not show him enough affection? Should some people never have children? Can a mother always forgive her child? These are just some of the things you’ll find yourself conflicted about during the film and likely for a long while afterwards.

What really makes the film, however, is the central performances. Tilda Swinton is totally believable as a mother who wants to love her child but finds it immensely difficult and then struggles with everyday life following her son’s atrocity. It’s a performance filled with heartbreak, frustration and inner turmoil and is matched only by that of Ezra Miller opposite her. It’s slightly disturbing how convincing Miller is as Kevin, his cold, piercing stare as unsettling as anything you’ll see in any horror film. Despite that, it’s absolute joy to watch a young actor take on a role like this and deliver it with such aplomb.

The film is adapted from Lionel Shriver’s novel of the same name, and it’s clear there are certain elements that would work much better on the page. This is a story that requires as much depth as possible to the relationships within the family to try and discover why Kevin is the way he is. The film does a decent job of examining these issues but it never feels quite as thorough as it needs to be or, although whether it’s even possible for the film to be that thorough is debatable.

We Need to Talk About Kevin isn’t an easy watch and some may find it a little too dark. However, it is stunningly shot, features an excellent score from Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood and revolves around a fascinating nature vs nurture argument. There’s a real intrigue to the story, and whilst you may be shocked at what happens, why it happens is the most fascinating part.

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

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50 thoughts on “Film Review: We Need To Talk About Kevin

  1. claratsi says:

    reviewed this myself sometime ago, a great movie. Never thought of it as the polar opposite of Its a wonderfyl life, but I see it! No happy endings here, and the end is exceptional. Nice one Terrence!

    • Cheers Kev! Haha, it’s only the opposite of It’s a Wonderful Life in terms of tone, particularly the endings! It really is a great movie though, totally absorbing.

      • claratsi says:

        oh yeah I absolutely got the point and it was a good one to open your review. The tone is exceptional you had me reading my own review after reading yours, it’s been a while since I saw it so may check it out again but i think it’s one of those watch once kind of films as it sticks with you for a while. For days after i was like, woah! 😦

      • Yeah it really is one of those films. I loved it but I’m not sure I want to watch it again for a while, it’s pretty draining to watch.

  2. keith7198 says:

    I have no good explanation why but I’ve keep pushing this movie back. I’ve got to give it a look!

  3. Mark Walker says:

    There was lots to admire in this film Chris but I found it a bit of a turgid affair. It’s hard to fault it but I really didn’t enjoy the experience very much. It was grim, man. Fine review, though, sir. It got a 3.5 from me.

  4. filmhipster says:

    Tilda Swinton deserved a mention at the Oscars for her role. She got shafted. I really liked Lynne Ramsay’s dreamlike direction, really put you in that dark mood like you mentioned. Nice review Chris, glad you liked it.

  5. Smash says:

    It’s been playing on the movie network lately. Maybe I’ll record it and give it a shot. Sounds really interesting!

  6. Zoë says:

    I keep on reading such great things about this film. I just need to get up and watch it already is all!

  7. Mr Rumsey says:

    I really, really need to get on and see this one soon! Nice post 😀

  8. Agreed Chris, it is a dark movie, but it is one people should check out.

    Personally I think Swinton’s character is responsible a) For not showing the infant more affection b) for not getting him help as a child when he was so obviously a monster

    Thats my take, I know others disagree.

    • Those are two very valid arguments, Fogs, and I agree with both of them, particularly the latter. I just don’t understand why she doesn’t get him help. We see her take him to the doctor once when he was quite young but then doesn’t bother to take him again when he gets worse.

      I also blame the dad, who seems so passive all the time and never takes his wife’s side in anything. She must have felt all on her own at times. Although, that doesn’t make up for her own shortcomings.

  9. I’ll be honest this left me cold. Nicely writen review, however, with some interesting food for thought.

    • Thanks man. I’m not surprised this leaves some people a little cold, it’s not the most accessible of movies. It’s so dark. I have no idea why I was so absorbed in it though!

      • It wasn’t so much the tone of the film I had issues with I’d say, rather the execution (excuse the pun!). The use of red everywhere to symbolise blood (the opening scene, the never-ending cans of tomato soup in the supermarket etc) was overwhelming, while Ramsey keeps you at a distance which didn’t allow me to feel anything for the characters so I ended up not really caring what happened to them. That’s my two cents worth anyway!

      • I did pick up on all the red stuff, and I agree it did go a little overboard with that but it didn’t bother me too much. It was a strange one for me; I didn’t particularly feel anything for the characters either, I thought none of them were particularly nice, apart from the little girl, but I was still drawn in by it. I can totally appreciate why you weren’t though!

  10. sati says:

    Great review! I loved the movie, it was so eerie, the cinematography reminded me of David Lynch’s movies.

  11. Nick Powell says:

    My regular watch-movies-with people all saw this without me and kind of told me the majority of what happens. That being said, I may have to check it out now one of these days. You should check out Gus Van Sant’s Elephant as well.

    • Thanks for the recommendation, Nick. I haven’t heard of that, but I’ll look into it. To be honest, I think you can still enjoy this even if you know what happens. It might take some of its punch away but I reckon it’ll still be pretty effective. I knew some of it beforehand and it didn’t hamper my enjoyment of it at all.

  12. Great review! The acting in this was superb, especially Ezra Miller. CHILLING.

  13. Garrett says:

    I’ve still got to see this one. Perhaps I’ve been putting it off because it looks so depressing, I think you’ve convinced me to try and rent it soon though.

    • It is quite depressing, no doubt about that, and it might put you off having children (if you don’t already have them)! I would definitely give it a watch, although you might have to be in a particular mood for it.

  14. ruth says:

    Great review Chris! You made me even more intrigued by this. It’s on Netflix so I’ll get to it eventually. It does sound quite disturbing but I want to see Tilda and Ezra’s performance.

    • Thanks Ruth! It’s worth watching for their performances, even if you find the subject matter a little unsettling. It’s not too violent but it’s not a particularly easy watch, I was quite on edge the whole time.

      • ruth says:

        Oh yeah, I didn’t think it would be too violent. I could handle ‘unsettling’ esp. when backed up by good writing and excellent performances 😀

  15. CMrok93 says:

    Pretty freakin’ disturbing movie. But what was also disturbing about it was how Tilda Swinton was not even nominated for an Academy Award! What the fuck?!?!? Nice review.

  16. ” you get type 2 diabetes because it’s so sweet?” That line made me lol. Great review! I love this film. Loved the book as well.

  17. nediunedited says:

    Chilling story and very powerful performances!! Both Swinton and Miller were both robbed of nominations.

    This is at its core a character study–more of the mother–that sheds some truthful light to the struggle of being a mother and the enormous responsibility (and pressure) to have another human being’s life in your hands. Yes, it goes to a dark place–but I thought it was raw in depicting how hard it can be. I think that Eva was suffering from postpartum depression in the beginning and that guilt made it difficult for her to admit that her son had issues. She thought she could fix it. Big mistake.

    Great review! 😀

    • I totally agree they were robbed, they were both amazing!

      Yeah I agree with you about her having post natal depression which prevented her from bonding with Kevin straight away. He also had clear issues though as well. Mix the two together and you get unhappy times! I think it was a good depiction of how parenthood isn’t always this amazing thing that it’s sometimes pained to be.

      Thanks 🙂

  18. jakeks19 says:

    After watching this movie, it was hard for me to like Ezra Miller until Perks of Being a Wallflower. He showed up at my screening of it in theaters which I thought was pretty brave considering his character haha.

  19. Nostra says:

    Did not have a problem with it being too dark. It was a movie that you won’t forget any time soon…

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