Tilda Swinton is an actress of supreme ability, always captivating to watch; and never more so in We Need to Talk about Kevin; for here she brings her familiar melancholy style to what is an extraordinary performance in a breath taking and deeply moving film.
Swinton plays Eva, a struggling mother; there is something very wrong with her son Kevin, a very difficult child.
A seemingly simple story perhaps, but in the hands of Writer/Director Lynne Ramsey an apparent mystery is presented with a spectacular time shifting story, with flashbacks and surreal exposition providing sporadic glimpses of just how monstrous this problem child is set to turn out.
Emotional and moving as Eva recalls her attempts at connecting with her son, the naivety of her husband and her resulting feeling of isolation, only she sees his malice. It’s heart wrenching as Swinton demands sympathy as she struggles, her motherly efforts unrewarded in Kevin’s infant days and scorned at by present day neighbours and repugnant work colleagues as an apparent accessory in a yet to be seen devastating event.
Comprehending Eva’s influence on an upbringing is as equally pitiful as it is frustrating, leading to question her continued measured approach in the face of what can only be described as pure wickedness. When should the firm hand of discipline replace the caring arm around the shoulder? Perhaps never, but when watching Eva’s struggle, guilt and frustration at her seemingly ineffective patience, it’s a tough watch and a tough choice. It’s one of the many sober morality questions raised throughout.
The presence of serious/funny man actor John C. Reilly doesn’t dilute the many dramatic episodes, his ignorant husband is as equally frustrating to watch in his inaction as he is before time, turning the blame onto the helpless Eva.
Ezra Miller plays the teenage Kevin with complete malevolence; he is a truly deplorable character, conducting one malicious act after another, showing utterly painful disdain with unjustified acts, Eva often the target as well as Kevin’s younger sister Celia; but the child Kevin (Jasper Newell) is terrifyingly distant too, devoid of joy and eerily contrite when purposefully carrying out evil actions that seem beyond the capability of an innocence child, leading to ponder what are his true issues? Is he ill, unloved or plain evil? It’s a question that serves as a compelling mystery throughout.
Most compelling is the hurtful complexity of the mother and son relationship and perhaps the consequences of mishandled parenting, but more so in an extraordinary finale, the question of why is uncomplicated and tantalisingly left unexplained. It’s a bitter pill for Eva, and all to swallow and somehow accept.
All-consuming and powerful with superb performances and captivating direction, We Need to Talk About Kevin will leave much to question and consider long after the brilliant and brutal finale.