out of Five
Running time: 112
Stunningly directed and brilliantly written, this is a haunting, provocative and emotionally devastating drama with an Oscar-worthy central performance from Tilda Swinton.
What's it all about?
Directed by Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher), We Need To Talk About Kevin is based on the award-winning 2003 novel by Lionel Shriver and stars Tilda Swinton as Eva, a woman who's struggling to rebuild her life in the wake of a horrific, community-shattering crime committed by her 15 year old son Kevin (Ezra Miller). As she visits Kevin in jail, Eva flashes back to the events that lead up to his crime and agonises over her own part in his upbringing – is she somehow to blame because she resented him as a child and was unable to bond with him?
Tilda Swinton is terrific as Eva, delivering a haunted, emotionally wrenching performance that is heart-breaking to watch and almost certain to earn her some awards attention come Oscar time. Similarly, Ezra Miller is extremely chilling as Kevin, exuding a seemingly malevolent, almost reptilian evil that is genuinely disturbing (Rock Duer is equally good as young Kevin), while there's reliable support from John C. Reilly as Eva's well-meaning husband Franklin and Ursula
Parker provides an adorable counter-part as Kevin's distinctly non-evil little sister Lucy.
The script (adapted from Shriver's novel by Ramsay and Rory Kinnear) is brilliantly structured, employing a fractured narrative that is both disorienting and effective. The editing is equally impressive with Ramsay choosing to leave certain details off-screen to powerful effect; as a result, one of the film's biggest shocks (assuming you haven't read the book) occurs as an almost casually off-hand detail that is utterly devastating.
Ramsay shoots with a bold visual style, heightened by Seamus McGarvey's stunning cinematography that splashes jarring reds throughout the flashback scenes, echoed in the splattered red paint that Eva is trying to remove from the front of her house in the present-day sequences. There's also relatively little dialogue throughout, with the camera frequently focused on Swinton's haunted eyes and colour-drained face, to haunting, claustrophobic effect.
On top of that, there's a superb score by Jonny Greenwood as well as a number of inspired soundtrack choices.
Brilliantly directed and superbly acted, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a haunting, provocative drama that packs a devastating emotional punch. Here's hoping we don't have to wait another nine years for Ramsay's next film. Unmissable and one of the best films of the year.
We Need to Talk about Kevin (18)